A new study in the field of marine pollution has revealed a shocking statistic – according to the research, nearly ten percent of whales, dolphins, and porpoises examined in Ireland have plastic in their digestive tracts. The findings are yet another reminder that our plastic waste has an enormous impact on other living beings and the environment at large – and the amount that is currently in the oceans must not be allowed to grow.

The study was published in the academic journal Environmental Pollution and was prepared by researchers at Galway-Mayo IT and University College Cork in collaboration with Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) reports. It was one of the largest studies of its kind – the examined data was gathered between 1990 and 2015 from whale and dolphin strandings and accidental captures in fishing nets. Analyzed were eleven different species of marine animals and the plastics discovered inside their digestive tracts included plastic bags, wrappers, fishing hooks, and even shotgun cartridges.

The data also show that 8.5 percent, that is 45 individuals of those tested, had marine debris in their stomachs and intestines. Moreover, deep-diving species were found to have ingested more plastic than the animals that live closer to the coast.

Plastic ingestion is a huge threat to marine animals as we dump around 8.8 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans, annually. A number of species are already deeply impacted by the pervasive plastic accumulating in the waters – among them sea turtles, seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins. Once in their system, plastic can often prove deadly, causing blockages and releasing toxic chemicals into the animals’ bodies. In most cases, the ingestion of plastic by marine wildlife occurs accidentally or because of the animal mistaking the waste for food. However, according to recent research, plastic also turns out to be eaten on purpose, for example by fish that are attracted to its taste.

What we throw away can and very much does impact the environment in a major way. Considering the sheer size that plastic pollution has now reached, this burning issue influences practically every organism linked to our oceans. Plastic is a problem that has to be addressed by governments and big businesses – but also by each of us as consumers.

To learn how to help the planet by using less plastic and producing less dangerous plastic waste, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

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