Marine Animals and Microplastics

Photograph by Justin Hofman

Plastic seems to be the discussion amongst many people recently, so much that National Geographic had an entire issue of plastic pollution. The issue touches on many parts dealing with the pollution increase but what caught my eye was the photographs of marine animals engaging with the plastic floating around. 

Plastics in the ocean are estimated to kill millions of marine animals every year. Around 700 species have been affected by the pollution. Some are harmed visibly, strangled by abandoned fishing nets or discarded six-pack rings, however, researchers think more are harmed invisibly by microplastics.

“We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle.”

It’s not always about trying to cut down on the plastics we use because we know that is the best place to start, but it’s also properly disposing plastics that we find. Beach clean ups are great because they can reduce the amount of plastic that enters the ocean. However, there are microplastics that can be hard to see on a beach clean up that cause even greater damage because the marine animals of different sizes are able to ingest the plastics. Microplastics have been found everywhere in the ocean, from sediments on the seafloor to ice floating in the Arctic. As the ice melts more than a trillion bits of plastic could be released into the water. 

Read more of the article and explore the latest issue in order to learn what you can do to help lessen the microplastics that enter the ocean.