Plastic Pollution | One of the biggest reasons that fish are often at the forefront of suffering from this type of pollution is that their food sources appear pretty similar to microplastics. In fact, their digestive system is often filled with white and blue colored pollutants, which shows how they often tend to confuse plastics with plankton (a major food source).
However, the impact doesn’t end here. There are millions of people around the world that solely rely on fish as their primary source of food. Hence, pollutants in water can also cause starvation on earth in the form of intoxicated fish.
Unfortunately, there’s hardly a species of whales in our oceans that hasn’t been found without plastic so far. From the rarest to the most common ones, every whale in the ocean has ingested some form of plastic into its system.
In fact, according to a 2019 study in the remote Arctic waters of Canada, a certain amount of microplastics were found in the stomach and intestines of almost every whale. While some consume these pollutants directly by taking in large gulps of water, other species often take them in through the food chain (by eating sea animals with plastic already in their system).
A 2017 study conducted by the University of Exeter found that thousands of sea turtles die after becoming entangled in fishing nets and other forms of plastic waste every year.
However, fishing nets are only many items that cause these precious sea creatures to witness their doom. Only a few years ago, a team of scientists from Exeter found microplastics in almost every sea turtle species in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Apart from fishing nets, here are all the items responsible for entangling sea turtles to their death:
- Plastic twine
- Nylon fishing line
- Six-pack rings from canned drinks
- Kite string
- Plastic packaging straps
- Plastic balloon string
- Seismic cable
- Discarded anchor line
- Wooden crates
- Discarded plastic chairs
- Boat mooring line
- Weather balloons
Just like any other sea creature, crabs are also prone to accidental ingestion of plastic waste. Moreover, the waste can also find its way inside through the gills. However, since crabs are consumed all over the world, it’s very likely for the microplastics to find their way inside humans too.
Last but not least, harbor seals are also among one of the most affected marine mammals, specifically because they stay in one place instead of migrating. Their thick blubber layers are often responsible for absorbing and retaining pollutants from industrial waterways.
Since seals are naturally curious and playful animals, it doesn’t take them long to end up coming in contact with oceanic pollution such as fishing nets and lines, plastic bags, packing straps, and much more. As a result, they can become very sick and, in many cases, also die.
What Can We Do?
Here’s the most important question of the century, what can we do? We’re well aware of what plastic is capable of doing, but the real question is about what we can do on an individual level to hinder the progress of such an event? The balance of the ecosystem is crucial to the continuity of life on the planet and is also highly dependent on what lifestyle changes we’re willing to adapt to.
One of the most basic things we can start from is cleaning up after ourselves. Here’s when the “leave with what you came with” policy comes in handy. However, it doesn’t limit us to picking up our own trash. There’s absolutely no harm in leaving with what someone else comes with too. While cleanups sound pretty basic, they have the potential to go a long way to save marine life. However, we should never restrict ourselves to just this practice because there’s only so much you can clean.
If every household on the planet learned how to recycle waste, it would be much easier to reverse the amount of damage we’ve caused to the oceans and seas around the world, but sadly that’s not the case. However, regardless of how challenging it may be to go plastic-free, it isn’t entirely impossible, at least not after we’ve already learned the cost it incurs on those that live in the oceans.
The Bottom Line
In the end, what starts with reduced plastic consumption on the land goes a long way to ensure that the world’s seals, whales, fish, crabs, and sea turtles live to see another day. After all, polluting the oceans poses a real threat to marine life and people who rely on it to feed their families.
by Maria A Davidson
We are in business to provide great products for the outdoorsy hikers, campers and their dogs; and to help clean our parks, rivers and oceans for a better planet earth for hikers and their dogs.
Parks are high-traffic areas in most cities. This means that trash is bound to show up in and around your park and playground.
When discussing ways your family can help clean your local park, don’t overlook a literal cleanup! Picking up trash will make a huge difference in the appearance and vibe of your park. A clean area will encourage others to keep the park pristine. When picking up trash and debris, make sure to wear gloves to protect yourself, and put trash in appropriate receptacles or lawn bags. You can also contact your local trash company to schedule a pickup when you are finished.
The storm drain on your street collects the water from your roof, driveway, and sidewalk and funnels it directly in your local lake or river. Nutrients from grass and leaves, pet waste, and fertilizers “enrich” our lakes and streams — feeding algae blooms and harming fish. Chemicals from washing your car in the drive and household chemical spills add up, taking a nasty toll on our favorite swimming areas and fishing spots. Soil can also be picked up by runoff, reducing the clarity of water and hurting fish.
So as you prepare your lawn and garden, here are a few helpful tips to keep our lakes and rivers beautiful and safe for all of us.
- Use mulch and vegetation to keep soil from washing away.
- Sweep or rake grass and leaves away from street curbs.
- Mulch and compost grass clippings and leaves.
- Keep paved surfaces to a minimum.
- Capture water runoff with a rain garden and rain barrels.
- Wash your car on the grass, where the water will get filtered.
- Keep chemicals away from storm drains.
- Collect your pet’s waste.
- Aim your rain-gutter downspouts onto grass.
Beaches Clean (do it for the ocean)
In 2007, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the National Clean Beaches Week Resolution to recognize the value of beaches to the American way of life and the important contributions of beaches to the economy, recreation, and natural environment of the United States.
Clean Beaches Week, celebrated annually July 1-7, offers the perfect opportunity to encourage stewardship and volunteerism along our coastlines. But where do you even begin? Follow these tips to get started.
- Identify a clean-up site. Choose a place that needs some TLC, making sure that volunteers can safely access the site. Get permission, if needed, for your clean-up event, perhaps from the local parks agency.
- Choose a site coordinator. (That might be you!) A beach clean-up takes a lot of work and needs an organized person to keep everything on track before, during, and after the event.
- Visit the site in advance. The coordinator will need to know where to set up a volunteer check-in station, where to leave trash and recyclables, and what area(s) volunteers will clean.
- Gather supplies. Depending on your location, you’ll need supplies such as trash bags, a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, wipes, and large coolers of water. You should also provide (or ask volunteers to bring) items such as reusable work/garden gloves, reusable water bottles, sunscreen, and bug spray.
- Plan how to handle the recyclables. Reach out to recyclers in your area (and perhaps your community’s solid waste departments) to make arrangements for accepting any glass, plastic, and aluminum that you collect.
- Line up event partners. Contact local businesses for donations of drinks, food, and supplies. Ask a local solid waste hauler to donate their services for trash removal.
- Plan for handling hazardous waste. Determine how you’ll dispose of any medical and sewage waste you might find. One solution: A wide-mouth container with a tight-fitting lid, such as an empty laundry detergent bottle. Clearly label that it contains hazardous waste.
- Get volunteers to help. Recruit friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. Create an event on Facebook and ask volunteers to sign up online. This will give you an idea of how many people to expect and will help communicate event details.
- Stay safe. Be prepared for a variety of health emergencies, from minor cuts and scrapes to heat stroke.
- Take photos! Post pics online to share the success of your event and recognize volunteers for their hard work.