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Plastic: a deadly meal for marine mammals


Wanda Bodnar

on 1 March 2014

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Transcript of Plastic: a deadly meal for marine mammals

Plastic: a deadly meal for marine mammals
The issue
Pollution of ocean waters is an international problem
If litter is not properly discarded it can enter the waterways
Around 6.5 millions tons of debris enter the world ocean every year
Once in the ocean, debris can accumulate into large patches
Plastic accounts for 60-80% of the total marine pollution
Between the 1950s and 2012 the annual production of plastic items increased from 1.5 million to 288 million tons
Plastic is lightweight, strong, durable and buoyant
It stays in the marine environment for a long time
The consequences
Approximately 43% of marine mammal species are affected by plastic debris ingestion
Species include whales, dolphins and porpoises
The causes
Sperm whales are especially vulnerable
Their feeding mechanism resembles a vacuum cleaner: they suck the food in their mouth
But these mammals cannot distinguish plastic bags from one of their favourite diet – squids
Cases from around the world
1984: Pygmy sperm whale - plastic debris in the stomach
1988: Minke whale - ingestion of plastic debris
1993: Sperm whale - ingestion of bread wrappers and corn chip bags
1985: West Indian manatee - plastic pieces
1995: two bottlenose dolphins asphyxiated on fishing lines
2008: 2 sperm whales were found dead with plastic bags, ropes and nets in their stomach
2010: a grey whale was found with small towels and surgical gloves in its stomach
1999: Blainville's beaked whale
2001: Roughed-toothed dolphin
2001: Geravis' beaked whale
2004: True's beaked whale
All individuals were found with plastic debris in their the stomach
Puerto Rico
2011: Geravis' beaked whale was found with 4.5 kg of plastic in its stomach
2012: sperm whale died of plastic ingestion
2013: sperm whale was found with 17kg of plastic in its stomach
2001: sperm whale died of eating a plastic mesh
2006: sperm whale ate plastic bags, nets and ropes
2012: sperm whale was found with 100 pieces of plastic bag (picture)
2001: Cuvier's beaked whale was found with plastic litter
Cook Islands
2006: Cuvier's beaked whale was found with plastic debris
2008: Bryde's whale was found with battle caps and ropes
2009: Bryde's whale
Carry a reusable bottle
Take a strand on straws
Bring your own bag and mug
Attend or organise local river and beach-clean ups
Additional information
Captain Charles Moore - TED talk
Simon Reeve - BBC Indian Ocean
Thilafushi Island - Maldives
Trashed - Jeremy Irons
Hawaii: Message in the waves
Brian Skerry
Brian Skerry
Bill Curtsinger
Franco Banfi
DNV-GL graphic
National Geographic
created by Wanda Bodnar
Full transcript