Marine debris ingestion is a serious issue and threat for all marine life. Floating plastic can be mistaken for jellyfish, a common food source for sea turtles. Shorebirds often mistake micro plastics for clams. Ingestion of plastics can cause serious harm to these animals, resulting in loss of nutrition, internal injury, intestinal blockage, starvation, and even death.
Millions of tons of debris enter the oceans each year from trash, damaged fishing gear, or shipping accidents. While far from every animal will encounter debris over its lifespan, the sheer amount of debris collecting on beaches, in ocean gyres, and on the ocean floor suggests that many types of marine wildlife cannot avoid encountering debris. The majority of debris items are small enough to be ingested by wildlife, and ingestion has been confirmed from the ocean surface to great depths. Whether debris is confused with, or accidentally ingested alongside, preferred food sources, debris is ingested by what increasingly appears to be nearly all types of marine organisms.