The Dangers of Plastics & Microplastics
One of the biggest issues regarding ocean conservation is how much trash and garbage people throw into the ocean. Trash people throw into waterways is often taken out to sea by outgoing tides, where it is carried on ocean currents. Out in the ocean are many “plastic islands” where currents have swept floating plastics and other trash into a big “island” made of nothing more than floating garbage. The biggest of these that has been discovered has reached an astonishing size – it is bigger than the state of Texas!
Keep in mind that plastic out in the ocean doesn’t just disappear. It takes a long time, but eventually plastics break down into tiny pieces called microplastics. These microplastics are so small that fish larvae can swallow them. One way or another, whether a larger fish directly eats microplastics or eats a smaller fish that had swallowed microplastics, bigger fish end up with these tiny pieces of plastic in them. The scariest part is that microplastics have been found in the very fish that we eat!
We aren’t the only ones who eat fish, though. Dolphins, sharks, seals, otters, turtles, birds, etc. can also end up with microplastics in their systems from eating smaller prey that has ingested the trash.
Entanglements = Slow, Miserable Deaths for Sealife
At parties, sometimes it’s fun to release a balloon and watch it sail up into the sky. When fishing on a waterway, when your line becomes tangled or your net falls apart, it’s easiest just to throw it overboard and forget about it. However, ballons, balloon strings, nets, fishing line – it all has the potential to become entangled around a marine animal. Sadly, it is often the case that air breathing marine animals such as dolphins, whales, and turtles become entangled in nets, which disable them from swimming and reaching the water’s surface for air.
Both balloons and balloon strings are a major threat to sea turtles. Some species of sea turtle like to eat jellyfish, and a balloon or other similar piece of plastic can look a lot like a jellyfish floating in the water. Far too often, a sea turtle will swallow a balloon, and this kills the animal. Sometimes the balloon string can become entangled around a young turtle’s neck, and as the animal grows, the string becomes tighter and tighter, slowly suffocating it to death. This can also be the case with other animals and other pieces of trash.
There are more issues that I could go in to concerning threats that marine animals face. It is important to help protect marine life because the ocean also effects life on land, too. Some of its inhabitants feed some land animals, not to mention that water from it evaporates to form rain, making fresh water more available.