"Marine debris" is litter that ends up in oceans, seas or other large bodies of water.
The debris is comprised of a cocktail of harmful man made objects, namely plastics. The marine debris travels though the oceans currents and have formed enormous masses of floating trash gyres in the middle of the ocean. Eventually the debris finds its way to beaches across the planet. Wildlife entanglement and ingestion as well as habitat damage are some of the impacts of marine debris on the ecosystem. There are also economic impacts on tourism for coastal communities.
One of the most notable types of impacts from marine debris is wildlife entanglement. Derelict nets, ropes, line, or other fishing gear, packing bands, rubber bands, balloon string, six-pack rings, and a variety of marine debris can wrap around marine life. Entanglement can lead to injury, illness, suffocation, starvation, and even death.
Many animals, such as sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals have been known to ingest marine debris. The debris item may be mistaken for food and ingested, an animal's natural food (e.g. fish eggs) may be attached to the debris, or the debris item may have been ingested accidentally with other food. Debris ingestion may lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, intestinal blockage, starvation, and even death.
(This photos is of an albatros who had ingested 272 pieces of plastic which resulted in his death due to starvation.)
Marine debris can scour, break, smother, and otherwise damage important marine habitat, such as coral reefs. Many of these habitats serve as the basis of marine ecosystems and are critical to the survival of many other species.
Marine debris is an eyesore along shorelines around the world. It degrades the beauty of the coastal environment and, in many cases, may cause economic loss if an area is a popular tourist destination. Would you want to swim at a beach littered in trash? And, many coastal communities may not have the resources to continually clean up debris.
- National Geographic: Ocean Trash
- National Geographic: Great Pacific Garbage Patch
- National Geographic: Marine Debris
- NOAA: Marine Debris Program
Our goal is to spread knowledge of the issue of marine debris. Planet Love Life directly supports beach cleanups and removal of marine debris. Beach rope removal is a step in the right direction and helps to prevent wildlife entanglements.