The majority of products purchased worldwide come in an (un)avoidable plastic wrapper. Plastic serves as one of the leading materials in worldwide consumption, with continually growing amounts produced, “consumed” and wasted each year. Eventually a portion of this waste finds its ways to our beaches, and waterways, which pollutes our oceans and kills marine life in various ways. This leads to marine health issues, contamination of the food chain, and ultimately negative impacts on our global water sources in ways that may soon be irrevocable.
The plastic crisis in our oceans is global. Plastic finding its way into the ocean has consolidated into enormous plastic gyres, or “garbage patches” found in the oceans. These “garbage patches” are composed of broken down plastics along with a multitude of other debris. However, unlike most debris which biodegrades, plastic only breaks into smaller and smaller polymers, never breaking down completely. Fragments of broken down plastics soak up toxins, and due to their small size and prevalence are widely ingested by marine animals. In some instances sea gulls and have been found with up to 3-4 plastic lighters and 5-10 bottle caps in their stomachs. Besides birds, many marine organisms ingest these plastics, which bio-accumulate, and threaten the entire food chain. To date, samples of our oceans have shown that there is no area of our ocean which does not contain some portion of plastic contaminants.
Now, in addition to the large concentration of plastic, Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have determined some of the fish in the area are eating it.
“We did indeed find some indisputable pieces of plastic in their guts.” The Scientist, Pete Davison stated that about 5-10 percent of the fish they studied –“mainly small swimmers common in the deep ocean, like lanternfish and hatchetfish” had consumed the tiny plastic particles. Those fish, in turn, are eaten by bigger, commercially fished species.
“If tuna is eating a lot of lanternfish, it is indirectly ingesting the plastic that might be in the lanternfish’s stomach,” Davison said. Substances like PCB and DDT can also be absorbed by plastic and leach into sea life and ultimately end up in our food chain. Plastic seafood consumption will worsen if this plastic crisis is not taken seriously – change begins with each willing individual.