We already know that plastic is destructive to sea life. A simple Google search surrounding ocean plastic reveals countless photos of sea birds tangled in fishing wire, plastic debris found in the stomachs of dead fish, seals drowned in fishing nets, and other horrific images.
Orphan plastic is clearly devastating to marine wildlife, but is it really as bad as it seems?
Unfortunately, it might be worse than you think. Here are some major ways plastic pollution is killing our oceans.
Just like everything, fishing nets degrade over time. Eventually, the integrity of the net breaks down, and the net will snap and float away. This poses a great risk for sea life.
Floating nets are nearly impossible to see. This causes swimming animals to easily entangle themselves in the floating nets, constricting their movement and cutting into their skin. For most sea creatures, this spells certain death. Constricted movement means that prey can no longer escape their predators, and oxygen-breathing aquatic animals—like seals, whales, and penguins—often drown when they can’t reach the surface.
Entanglement can also cause life-threatening injuries. Even if the animal is able to escape the netting, it can cause deep cuts that attract predators, become infected, or cause permanent damage.
Plastic threatens coral reefs and other habitats
The world’s reefs are made up of hundreds of species of coral life and other creatures that create essential habitats and other symbiotic roles. Unfortunately, plastic waste is killing off essential coral life, threatening the species and destroying the reefs that thousands of marine creatures call home.
It’s been shown that corals which have come into contact with plastic are 20 times more likely to get sick. Plastic waste blocks light and oxygen that corals need to survive, making them susceptible to disease and other issues.
Beyond this, corals can actually eat plastic just like other marine species do. This increases disease and other issues ravaging the world’s reefs.
Plastic waste is causing reefs to diminish and migrate, which is destroying massive habitats that thousands of creatures depend upon. If we are unable to stop the destruction, it could mean a mass extinction of thousands of different species.
How to reduce ocean plastic
The best way to reduce ocean plastic is to reduce plastic use altogether.
Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from reducing plastic use to a point that it won’t affect our marine life. For now, we can try to achieve plastic neutrality and gather plastic waste before it reaches our oceans.
Companies can offset their plastic footprint by purchasing plastic credits that fund projects focusing on ocean-bound plastics. Plastic credits purchased through TONTOTON go toward projects that minimize ocean-bound plastics in Vietnam, support waste pickers, and minimize orphan plastic that could end up in our oceans.
A massive, worldwide movement needs to take place in order to minimize the destruction caused to marine life. For now, do your part by offsetting your plastic footprint and funding projects that will help keep plastics out of our oceans.