Sea animals, especially baby sea turtles, are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of plastic ingestion, as demonstrated by one study.
Considering the fact that approximately 10 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, it can be concluded that sea animals are regularly eating plastic debris.
While some plastic can pass through an animal’s digestive system without causing it any damage, some plastic can accumulate and kill the animal by tearing or blocking its guts.
A team of scientists led by Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have conducted a study with the purpose of measuring the harm which plastic debris is having on sea turtles in eastern Australia.
The researchers analyzed data from approximately 1,000 dead turtles to identify the relationship between the amount of plastic sea turtles ingest and the likelihood of death.
What they found was that baby turtles seemed to be most vulnerable to plastic debris. Out of the 246 turtles that they examined, 58 had plastic debris inside of them: 54 percent of post-hatchling turtles and 23 percent of juvenile turtles contained plastic compared to 16% of adult turtles.
The researchers also found that once an animal ingests 14 pieces of plastic, it has a 50 percent probability of death.
Undoubtedly, this study provides a sense of the scope of the problem. And we hope that more studies like this one will be conducted by scientists all over the world so that we can all understand what a grave issue plastic debris in the marine environment is.
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