How plastic pollution is affecting the marine life?
The pollution of plastic is increasing each year at alarming rates and its negative impact has still not been noticed by the world. Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year and over 8 million tons of plastic is entering the oceans. It can be found in both highly populated areas of the world and also in remote areas where there is little or no human interaction is present. The humankind has produced this everlasting material that can’t be recycled by the nature. So it is our obligation to reverse its effects to prevent further damage to our marine environment.
Plastic has affected all types of marine life; from smallest microorganisms like zooplankton to largest marine animals like whales. It has also affected the large ecosystem of coral reefs. The plastic can be introduced to the oceans from different sources such as land based sources like rivers and litter which is left on the shore from beach. It is also introduced by marine ships which contribute to around 20% of ocean pollution. According to research done on 693 dead species of marine animals, 92% were dead due to plastic. Either they had entangled by the plastic or had ingested it. 17% species have been placed on IUCN Red List as being endangered or near extinct. Hard plastic also caused abrasion of coral reefs.
Along with the larger pieces of plastic, small microplastics that measure less than 5mm in diameter as well also pose threat to marine life. These small plastic particles are ingested by low level organisms like plankton, which are then ingested by fish which is then eaten by higher organisms including humans.
It is not only the physical structure of the plastic which poses threat, rather chemical structure of plastic is also dangerous. Plastic is made up of synthetic organic polymer which is made from petroleum. This synthetic polymer is when breaks down in the oceans, it releases toxic chemicals into water which are very dangerous for marine life. These toxic materials also cause degradation of the reef which is very helpful in protecting coastlines from waves and storm damage.
Floating plastic bags are also mistaken as food by the sea turtles. If these plastic bags are ingested, it can lead to blockage in the gut and even death. The sea birds consume less food due to the ingestion of plastic because the storage volume of the stomach is reduced and as a result they starve. Marine animals like Hawaiian monk seals and stellar sea lion ingest and get entangled in plastic.
Plastic pollution is also badly affecting the global economy. Agricultural and fishing industries are being destroyed due to its pollution. The tourism industry is also badly affected because oceans and beaches are transformed into landfills. This practice is symptom of our throw-away society and it shows our approach to how we use our natural resources. According to report, an average person produces half a pound of plastic every day.
Currently, we are not able to remove these chemicals from the sea; however we can reduce the amount of plastic which surrounds and enters our seas and oceans to prevent the release of toxic chemicals. Plastic causes physical damage to marine flora and fauna and results in death of marine animals of all kind. We are also at risk of plastic pollution and we should take action to reduce its effects. It is time that governments should take action to overcome the problems before it becomes out of control.
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