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The role plastic products play in the daily lives of people all over the world is interminable. We could throw statistics at you all day long (e.g. Upwards of 300 MILLION tons of plastic are consumed each year), but the impact of these numbers border on inconceivable.

For those living on the coasts, a mere walk on the beach can give anyone insight into how staggering our addiction to plastic has become as bottles, cans, bags, lids and straws (just to name a few) are ever-present. In other areas that insight is more poignant as the remains of animal carcasses can frequently be observed; the plastic debris that many of them ingested or became entangled in still visible long after their death. Sadly, an overwhelming amount of plastic pollution isn’t even visible to the human eye, with much of the pollution occurring out at sea or on a microscopic level.

These animals are in danger from plastic pollution: here's how can you can helpLiveScience


The short-lived use of millions of tons of plastic is, quite simply, unsustainable and dangerous. We have only begun to see the far-reaching consequences of plastic pollution and how it affects all living things. According to a study from Plymouth University, plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species, while some estimates suggest that at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution.

Here are some of the marine species most deeply impacted by plastic pollution.

1. Sea Turtles

these animals are in danger from plastic pollution: heres how you can help


Like many other marine animals, sea turtles mistake plastic waste for a viable food source, sometimes causing blockages in their digestive system. Though the declining sea turtle populations in the oceans are due to a variety of factors (most all of which involve human exploitation), plastic pollution plays a significant role.

Separate studies from 2013 suggest as many as 50 percent of sea turtles are ingesting plastic at an unprecedented rate, and dying because of it. Another study of the Loggerhead species found that 15 percent of young turtles examined had ingested such enormous quantities of plastic that their digestive system was obstructed.

2. Seals and Sea Lions

Marine life can become entangled in a variety of ocean debris including fishing nets, lines, and lures. Still, there are a number of seals and sea lions that become entangled in plastic bags or plastic packing bands leading to injury and death.

In fact, plastic packing bands and rubber bands continue to deeply impact the Steller Sea Lion population. An eight-year study in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia documented 388 sea lions entangled in plastic debris. These plastic packing bands and rubber bands can become so embedded in the animal that it can lead to severe infection and death.

3. Seabirds

The-Plastic-Impact-on-BirdsChris Jordan


Plastic pollution leads to the deaths of millions of marine bird species each year. Arguably more so than other birds, the Laysan albatross has been deeply impacted by plastic debris through their hunting techniques. When the albatross dives into the ocean to catch fish, squid or other food they use their beak to skim the surface, picking up plastic along the way.

Shockingly, an estimated 98 percent of albatross studied are found having ingested some kind of plastic debris. Once the plastic has been ingested, it causes an obstruction in the digestive tract and can puncture internal organs.

4. Fish

Fish, along with pretty much any marine mammal that brings in water through its gills, are increasingly at risk to microscopic plastic debris. A study performed at the University of Exeter UK suggested that microscopic marine debris could take up to six times as long for the animal to rid themselves of in comparison to ingesting the debris orally.

Of course plastic pollution deeply impacts species of fish, but unlike other animals on our list, this is the one animal that’s also commonly eaten by humans. A number of studies suggest that the fish humans continue to consume have at one time or another ingested plastic microfibers, including brown trout, cisco, and perch.

5. Whales and Dolphins


Like other marine mammals, whales often mistakes marine debris for a potential food source. In some species, similar to that of the albatross, the whales mouth is so large it unknowingly picks up plastic debris (a technique observed in baleen whales). Necropsies performed after numerous whale strandings saw an increase in the amount of plastic debris found.

A study also found that hundreds of species of cetaceans have been negatively impacted by plastic pollution in the past two decades. The obstructions often puncturing and tearing the stomach lining, leading to starvation and death. According to Marine Pollution Bulletin, cetaceans are ingesting plastic debris at a rate as high as 31 percent, and in turn, 22 percent of those cetaceans were at an increased risk of death.

What Can You Do?

It’s clear that plastic pollution impacts virtually every living organism in, or thriving off of, the oceans of our world. This is simply not acceptable. The balance of our ecosystem is essential to our quality of life and will ultimately depend on when the world decides to stop turning a blind eye to the issue and make the necessary lifestyle changes.

We all must remain diligent as we work to minimize our own individual consumption of plastic products. So, whether you’re just beginning the journey to minimizing plastic in your life or not, there are a few key steps that never hurt to repeat.

Clean Up After Yourself

Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? If you’re on the beach or at the park, be mindful of a “leave with what you came with” policy. It also doesn’t hurt to pick up after your neighbors if you notice they may have left a few things behind. Beach cleanups are a great way to help the environment and meet like-minded individuals who want to reduce their plastic footprint.


It’s simple to apply this to your everyday life by recycling in your own home. Most public places now offer waste versus recycling options, too. If you happen to be out, and you don’t see an area for recyclables, simply ask. Worst case scenario is you’re forced to take a plastic bottle or bag home with you and recycle it on your own.

When You Can: Just Say No

We understand that going completely plastic free is challenging for most families, but we all know plastic consumption isn’t always well, necessary. Saying no to straws, buying in bulk and bringing your own reusable bags grocery shopping are just a few of the many ways you can cut down on the amount of plastic you’re consuming.

For more information, check out these great articles:

Lead image source: prillfish/Flickr

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19 comments on “These 5 Marine Animals Are Dying Because of Our Plastic Trash … Here’s How We Can Help”

Click to add comment
Onion Lord
24 Days ago

I don\'t understand how you consider a bird or a turtle a mammal. Can you explain, please?

Onion Lord
24 Days ago

I don\'t understand how you consider a bird or a turtle a mammal. Can you explain, please?

2 Months Ago

This is all very sad! i want this to stop. thats why my school is helping.

villagemeadows 6 th grade
07 Mar 2018

this needs to stop we r going to a charitey from a student/tori h

David Diehl
2 Months Ago

This is a very good piece and it really shows people how bad plastic really is.

3 Months Ago

super sad

4 Months Ago

..... I couldn\'t bear to look at these pictures, they just leave me heartbroken!
- With litter and debris, We will soon have no sea -

5 Months Ago

It was the dying cry of Charlton Heston in the creepy 1973 film Soylent Green… and it could resemble our desperate near future.

The ocean is dying, by all accounts – and if so, the food supply along with it. The causes are numerous, and overlapping. And massive numbers of wild animal populations are dying as a result of it.

Natural causes in the environment are partly to blame; so too are the corporations of man; the effects of Fukushima, unleashing untold levels of radiation into the ocean and onto Pacific shores; the cumulative effect of modern chemicals and agricultural waste tainting the water and disrupting reproduction.

A startling new report says in no uncertain terms that the Pacific Ocean off the California coast is turning into a desert. Once full of life, it is now becoming barren, and marine mammals, seabirds and fish are starving as a result. According to Ocean Health:

The waters of the Pacific off the coast of California are a clear, shimmering blue today, so transparent it’s possible to see the sandy bottom below […] clear water is a sign that the ocean is turning into a desert, and the chain reaction that causes that bitter clarity is perhaps most obvious on the beaches of the Golden State, where thousands of emaciated sea lion pups are stranded.


Over the last three years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has noticed a growing number of strandings on the beaches of California and up into the Pacific north-west. In 2013, 1,171 sea lions were stranded, and 2,700 have already stranded in 2015 – a sign that something is seriously wrong, as pups don’t normally wind up on their own until later in the spring and early summer.

“[An unusually large number of sea lions stranding in 2013 was a red flag] there was a food availability problem even before the ocean got warm.”Johnson: This has never happened before… It’s incredible. It’s so unusual, and there’s no really good explanation for it. There’s also a good chance that the problem will continue, said a NOAA research scientist in climatology, Nate Mantua.

Experts blame a lack of food due to unusually warm ocean waters. NOAA declared an El Nino, the weather pattern that warms the Pacific, a few weeks ago. The water is three and a half to six degrees warmer than the average, according to Mantua, because of a lack of north wind on the West Coast. Ordinarily, the north wind drives the current, creating upwelling that brings forth the nutrients that feed the sardines, anchovies and other fish that adult sea lions feed on.

23 Jan 2018

ban trump for life

23 Jan 2018


01 Feb 2018

This is completely inhuman that so many people can just turn a blind eye to problems like this. SAVE THE OCEANS!!! MARINE LIFE MATTERS TOO!!

06 Mar 2018

that\'s true oisjp and HI

19 Apr 2018

that is gross and very bad

5 Months Ago


10 Months Ago

lit fam

11 Months Ago

thats just sad


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