Marine debris is all man-made, long lasting solid materials that enter the marine environment. Think cigarette filters and plastic bags, derelict nets and sunken boats. These materials enter the environment through people discarding them directly but also through sewers, stormwater runoff and ocean dumping by ships. Unfortunately, marine debris can remain in the environment for decades or even centuries, causing far-reaching effects on marine creatures and humans, navigation, the economy and the way in which an ecosystem functions.
Here’s a breakdown of the impacts:
· Fish, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals commonly mistake marine debris for food. The ingestion of debris may block or damage the digestive tract, poison the organism, lead to starvation or infection as well as cause a false sense of fullness.
· Marine animals can become tangled in plastic, which can cause strangulation, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators, or other injuries.
· Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals and seabirds die from ingestions or interactions with marine debris each year.
· Marine debris can contribute to the transfer and movement of invasive species.
· Plastic is one of the most common types of marine debris.
· Each year, 25 million tons of plastic accumulates in the environment.
· In some areas, as much as 90 to 95 percent of floating marine litter is plastic.
· There are currently over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square kilometre of ocean.
· An estimated 80 percent of marine debris comes from land.
· Marine litter threatens various industries that depend on a healthy, clean ocean like seafood production, tourism and shipping.
· Due to the pattern and location of ocean currents and other oceanographic features, marine debris may accumulate in large “garbage patches” in the ocean.
Fowler, C. 1983. Status of northern fur seals on the Pribilof Islands.
Laist, D. 1987. Overview of the Biological Effects of Lost and Discarded Plastic Debris in the Marine Environmen