Report documents plastic threats to sea life

A plastic container is caught on a monk seal’s face. Credit: NOAA

A report from the environmental organization Oceana has documented nearly 1,800 U.S. incidents of marine mammals and sea turtles swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic in the ocean since 2009. Eighty-eight percent of the animals were from species federally listed as threatened or endangered, including Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi), manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus), Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and all six species of sea turtles in the U.S.

“This report paints a grim picture,” said Oceana senior scientist Kimberly Warner, but the actual numbers are certainly much higher. 

Studying information collected by government agencies, organizations and institutions, researchers gathered data on 80 different species. Bags, balloons, recreational fishing line, plastic sheeting and food wrappers were the most common types of identifiable plastics consumed. Plastic packing straps, bags, balloons with strings and sheeting were the most common items entangling the animals.

Read the report here.