Man-made marine debris
Man-made marine debris – a hidden threat
Every year, people and industry pollute the oceans with increasing amounts of manmade debris such as plastic bags and packaging, discarded fishing nets, footwear, cigarette lighters and other household items. This manmade marine debris poses a threat to people’s health and to the integrity and beauty of our natural environment. A specific part of this threat is the danger posed to whales, dolphins and porpoises, as they can suffer or even die after swallowing or becoming entangled in this manmade debris.
Where is manmade debris found in the oceans?
Manmade debris is found throughout the world’s oceans, on the surface, in the depths, on the seabed and at the shorelines.
Manmade debris is not evenly distributed across the planet’s seas and oceans. More debris is found in seas that are largely landlocked, such as the Mediterranean, than in open oceans. More manmade marine debris is found in the tropical and mid-latitude regions of the planet than towards the poles. Less manmade debris is found on the shores of the Southern Sea, which encircles Antarctica and sees relatively little human activity, than on the shores of oceans that see more human activity.
So how bad is the problem?
The main problem at present is that we don’t yet know how big the risks posed by manmade debris in the oceans are. However, according to reports published over the last few decades, many whales, dolphins and porpoises have been found either dead, in distress or stranded after swallowing manmade debris.
Reported cases of swallowing or entanglement probably represent the tip of the iceberg, because for a case to be confirmed, the animal’s carcass must be retrieved and carefully studied by scientists. Most whales, dolphins and porpoises that die after swallowing manmade debris or becoming entangled in it will die out at sea, and their deaths will go unrecorded.
So what can be done to find out the true impact of manmade debris on whales, dolphins and porpoises?
It is important that scientists who study whales, dolphins and porpoises now work together to compile their records of such animals that have swallowed manmade debris or become entangled in it. This way, we can better understand the scale of the problem, and may be able to identify populations that are at particular risk.