For decades, humans have used the oceans as a dumping ground for trash, as if the depths could hide our carelessly discarded waste. But dumping it in the water does not make it disappear. Instead, it lingers in the environment long after we humans have forgotten about it and is killing our wildlife by suffocation, strangulation and poisoning.
“Seabirds, sea turtles, fish and marine mammals often ingest marine debris that they mistake for food,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Studies of thousands of bird carcasses revealed that the cause of death was ingested garbage, particularly plastic.
Birds are not the only victims of humankind’s thoughtless dumping of trash. Turtles, dolphins, and even whales have suffered slow, torturous deaths by eating or being entangled in our garbage.
Everything from disposable cigarette lighters and discarded fishing nets to tons of non-degradable plastic has been found in and around dead wildlife.
IFLScience reports, “Earlier this year, a study was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin about the impacts of plastics entering whales' diets. As plastic cannot be digested, it sits in the stomach without being able to go anywhere.
“Eventually, the digestive tract becomes blocked. Not only is the whale unable to clear this blockage, but it is also unable to eat any real food as well. Thus, the researchers found that starvation and gastric rupture ultimately kill the whale.”
Earth’s oceans take up two-thirds of the surface of our planet and are essential to sustaining life, not just for animals, but for humans as well. Oceans regulate temperature and climate for the entire planet. This affects rain patterns, crop growth and the animals in our food supply. Simply put, if our oceans die, so do humans.
Captain Paul Watson has devoted the past 37 years of his life to protecting our oceans and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. However, he might be best known for his starring role in Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars.”
In an interview with Bill Maher earlier this month, Watson claimed there is about 7 million tons of plastic in our oceans and it is killing wildlife by the millions. He also cited a report by the Pentagon that acknowledges the seriousness of human threats to our environment and suggested that the collapse of our ecosystem could occur in our lifetime.
If we continue on our current path, we could lose our coral reefs by 2025, and see a complete collapse of the world’s fisheries by 2048.
In response to the problem of plastic waste in our oceans, Watson has launched the Vortex Project, with the goal of picking up and recycling our ocean garbage and turning into material that can be used to make clothing.
However, it will take more than the valuable efforts of men like Watson to end our legacy of using our oceans as a garbage dump. People have to be aware of the fact that plastic does not disappear just because a trash service takes it away. What that trash service does with our plastic waste matters.
Our wildlife shouldn’t have to suffer horrible deaths because we think we don’t have the power to stop it. We do.
If your local government does not have a plastic recycling program, call, email or visit them personally and encourage them to start one.
You can also sign the petitions below.
IPCC Report: ‘severe and pervasive’ impacts of climate change will be felt everywhere
US Environmental Protection Agency
Ocean horror show: Dead sea birds with bellies full of plastic garbage
Plane search hampered by ocean garbage problem
Petitions you can sign:
OCEAN PLASTICS POLLUTION:A Global Tragedy for Our Oceans and Sea Life
Stop Ocean Dumping of Deadly Plastics
Sign Petition: Toxic Plastics Killing Marine Life
Stop Navy ships from dumping their trash into the ocean!
Stop killing whales with plastic waste!
Stop Ocean Plastic Pollution