These Items in Your Home Are Harming America’s Sea Animals


How severely the world’s plastic waste crisis is affecting marine wildlife is not fully understood, despite decades of research and gruesome images of whales’ bellies filled with plastic and a turtle with a straw lodged in its nostril. A new report by Oceana, a conservation group, illustrates some of what we know about how plastic affects sea turtles and marine mammals in United States waters.

The authors focused on sea turtles and marine mammals for practical reasons. These animals are federally protected, so when they are found in distress or wash up dead on a beach, responders are required to document it. By collecting data from government agencies and marine life organizations around the country, the authors found almost 1,800 cases of plastic entanglement or ingestion affecting 40 species since 2009.

But the report notes that the number is “a gross underestimate” because humans observe a tiny fraction of animal deaths in the ocean. Even so, of the nation’s 23 coastal states, it found cases in 21.

“This is the first time we’re looking at the problem from a U.S. perspective,” said Kimberly Warner, the report’s author and a senior scientist at Oceana. “This brings the problem home.”

But the report also found many more surprising items caused harm. Along the Gulf Coast, mesh produce bags were found in the guts of sea turtles and also entangling their bodies. In 2015, a loggerhead turtle in Georgia was found with a toothbrush and fork in its digestive tract, among other items. Two years later, another turtle was found in New York with a plastic dental flosser inside it. Food wrappers, sandwich bags, sponges, and even decorative plastic Easter grass were among the items discovered. A bottlenose dolphin in North Carolina had its head stuck in the hole of a flying disc. In Virginia, a DVD case lacerated the stomach of a sei whale.

Humans have created all kinds of dire problems for sea animals: rising sea temperatures, fishermen hauling in unintended species, ships striking them, other marine pollution and habitat degradation.



Sahred From Source link Science

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