Why do sea creatures think plastics as a food and eats?
From small plankton to giant whales, it is documented that sea creatures consume plastic.
This is because the plastic does not only look like food to the sea creatures but also because it smells.
Microbial ecologists Erik Zettler from the Royal Netherlands Institute of Naval Studies “When you go to the next beach, try removing the plastic from the water and smelling it. You’ll see it smells like fish, “he says.
The Zettler says that the plastic in the ocean is quickly coated with a layer of thin germs, often called plastisphere.
The slimy on the plastic is releasing chemicals that cause the living layer to smell like food and give it a taste.
Especially a chemical substance, dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that spreads from plastics attracts animals, including fish.
The theory also applies to hunt seabirds who smell their food.
But other species, such as rodent whales, mistakenly consume plastic while their original food filters plankton from the water.
Increasing plastic in the oceans
The plastic in the oceans is growing rapidly. According to a study conducted in 2015, eight million tons of plastic are entering the ocean every year.
Some of them are entering large flow systems known as vortices.
The plastic that is trapped in the vortexes is broken up into small pieces, transformed into microplastics, and become digested by the sea creatures.
This study is defined as the best research done so far to measure the amount of plastic waste in the ocean.
But Kristian Syberg of Roskilde University is opposed to the results of the research.
Syberg “This is a study that greatly underlines the accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans. There are two reasons, first, the results are based on surface screening and this is missing particles smaller than 0.3 millimeters. And secondly, the samples on the water surface are probably only one or two percent of the particles in the ocean, “he said.
According to the study dated 2015, 17.5 million tonnes of plastic waste per year can be entered into the oceans as of 2025 if no precautions are taken.
Does it affect the marine life under the waves?
An important question arises on the basis of the knowledge that the polymers are regularly digested by the sea creatures.
Does this material have an ecological impact and why do we use knowledge to develop safer alternatives to problematic materials?
Dr. Mark Browne, who published many studies on the effects of plastic waste on marine life, said:
“This can be done if the ecologists and engineers are able to identify substances that may have ecological effects and to work together for their decommissioning.”
However, the size of the damage in marine life is not exactly known.
Syberg “The effect on large animals, such as whales and birds, has been clearly seen. They can starve to death because they choke or block the plastic digestive system they eat. ”
There are certain types of birds that are damaged due to plastic contamination, such as the Laysan Albatross.
The producers of the documentary Blue Planet 2 came across plastic in the vomit of albatross puppies living in South Georgia, south of the Great Ocean.
Producer James Honeyborne says, “The puppies must have taken the plastic from the sea and gave it to the puppies, assuming that their parents were eaten.” A puppy died of a martini puncture of a plastic toothbrush.
However, Erik Zettler says that a large number of sea creatures also eat plastic and that it is not a visible effect.
There are studies in some laboratories that investigate the effects of plastic digestion on “non-lethal” effects on marine life and how it can affect people.
How do we prevent plastic waste from getting into the oceans?
A major campaign was launched on September 8th to clean up plastic wastes in the Pacific Ocean.
The “Ocean Cleaning” campaign is planned to launch a 600-meter-long vessel that can collect five tons of plastic waste per month. By 2040, a 90 percent cleanup is promised.
But Syberg says it’s important not to rely too heavily on such technological cleaning solutions.
Syberg says, “Cleaning is good and can work, especially in the coastal areas where plastic waste is intense, but the final solution is not to prevent plastic pollution, but to clean it later, only by changing our habits of using and throwing plastics.” says.
Erik Zettler also participated in more than 60 research trips in the Great Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
“Easy Solutions ” does not agree with Syberg.
“You’ll need a combination of different things. In order to reduce plastic waste, it is imperative that human behaviour, change in rules and participation of the industry. “