Photo Credit: Flickr user Jong Cortez
As the world’s population increases dramatically and the demand for production increases, so does pollution. Pollution in water bodies has become an increasingly large problem across the globe. Many marine organisms and their environments are being affected by anthropogenic ignorance. Instead of spending the extra two minutes to properly dispose of their trash, many people are resorting to leaving it at the beach, throwing it out of car windows or otherwise improperly disposing of their garbage. This garbage makes its way into our water bodies, polluting the aesthetics of our beaches and destroying the environment.
Everyone has seen pictures on the internet of birds or turtles with plastic soda rings around their neck. These soda rings prevent proper feeding and gas exchange, resulting in fatalities. What many people fail to understand, is that these creatures are ingesting the trash we put into the ocean. While many organizations strive to clean our beaches, they forget about the actual water and focus mostly on the sandy shores to better the aesthetics.Cleaning up the beaches themselves is important, but cleaning up lagoons and waterways will directly result in healthy foraging behaviors of marine organisms.
Trash bags and other translucent plastics pose a severe problem for organisms, such as sea turtles that eat gelatinous zooplankton. These plastics are also problematic for larger organisms such as whales, who can accidentally ingest the plastic and be unable to digest it. Several recent reports have shown organismal necroscopies to include lots of plastic trash. Adult and juvenile sperm whales are ingesting plastic instead of proper food sources, weighing them down and staying in their stomachs for prolonged amounts of time. One whale that washed up dead on the coast of Spain ingested 59 plastic items that totaled over 37 pounds.
It’s sickening to me that humans are not fazed by this phenomenon that mankind has created. People need to step up, take responsibility for their actions and face criminal punishments for littering. If everyone stood together, reduced plastic production and cleaned up waterways and beaches, these fatalities could be avoided.