Why Do Marine Animals Eat Plastic and Are Unable To Stop?
Author: Karmuki E
Plastics play an important role in the global economy as they are widely used in manufacturing industries to create things that have revolutionised the way people live. Many plastic products have environmental consequences that people are unaware of. Though humans get benefits from plastics, it kills and harms marine animals hugely, as they can't easily adapt to environmental change. Nowadays, we are hearing many stories related to marine animals and their stomachs of plastics. There will be a strange question in our minds about what happens if animals’ intake plastics. Basically, plastics are eaten by marine animals as they resemble and smell like marine animals’ prey, and these plastics can make animals ill and lodge in their intestines. They also get caught around the neck and bodies of these animals.
The number of marine plastics is doubling year by year. Animals eat plastic as they are unable to distinguish between plastic and food, and this causes starvation, suffocation, drowning for sea turtles and sea birds as plastic takes up a place in their stomach.
Plastics are causing the decline of marine species, and therefore it is our duty to stop using plastics and protect marine animals. From this blog, we will get to know the reasons why marine animals cannot stop eating plastics.
Now, let's see why marine animals eat plastic.
Having 12.7 million tonnes of plastic thrown into our seas each year, there is a greater risk of animal life being harmed by this harmful chemical than ever before. Our marine population is in serious situation. As our seas continue to fill with plastic litter and waste, marine life is increasingly consuming these toxins.
Algae is a main food source for krill and other small marine organisms, and many other species feed on it. As an alga decomposes, it generates a sulphur-like odour known as DMS (Dimethyl Sulphide). When we think about it, the main reason behind animals eating plastics is because of smell. This smell is used by marine birds and animals to locate their hunting areas, as the smells indicate the existence of food. Unfortunately, because algae thrive on plastic, the trash that floats in our waters begins to smell like food to marine life. When microplastics break down into water, they become marine particles and animals feed on them. Also, these plastics seem to be like jellyfish, which is hunted by many dolphin species and whales.
These are the main reasons behind why animals eat plastic. Plastics are literally destroying the inhabitants of our oceans, and there is no way to stop it.
Let’s know, what will happen if animals eat plastic.
Many other forms of plastic, such as water bottles, sink naturally. Algae or barnacles may grow on the surface of other plastics that would normally float, altering their mass and pushing them down. Marine animals that eat those plastics accidentally may suffer and die due to them.
When an animal intakes larger pieces of plastic, this might get stuck and block the gastrointestinal tract of animals, and stop them to feel hunger and this results in death. When it swallows smaller pieces, this doesn’t create any internal injury or blockage, but the toxic chemicals present in plastics cause sickness, shortened life-spans, and infertility. Due to this blockage, food cannot pass through the intestines. During this situation, animals face severe discomfort and a greater amount of pain. This blockage might get deep into the intestine too and cause severe suffering.
Around 180 species of ocean animals, from tiny plankton to gigantic whales, have been swallowing plastics, and plastics have been found in the stomachs of fish which we are consuming it. Animals of all shapes and sizes consume plastics, as 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Plastic has even been discovered in the Mariana Trench, the world's lowest point at seven miles below the surface, where shrimp-like organisms consume it.
Concluding, for the past 150 years, plastic has been the dominant product in the environment, causing environmental impacts on marine species and ecosystems. Each year 10 to 20 million tonnes of plastics garbage wind up in the sea areas as humans are unable recycle it properly. Therefore, the marine animals cannot adapt to the sudden environmental change, and this results in their death.
People must understand the risks of using plastics and the government must take initiatives to create awareness among the public to use a smaller number of plastics. Although many nations recognize the importance of preserving the environment, and have taken steps to ban plastic. They have implemented many regulations, eco-friendly alternatives, and technological developments. We should be optimistic about recovering the marine ecosystem on which animals and humankind depend as more people become aware of it and start fighting for it.