It’s no secret that humans are slowly killing animals that live in or around the ocean with our collections of plastic waste across the world. But the scary truth of how devastating that is might not be so visible. Sure, nobody wants to harm animals or knowingly wreck the planet we live on but we also keep a safe distance from facing the realities of the world we live in today. Well, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization the problem is going to be in our faces more than ever over the next 35 years.
The group conducted a study that studied how common it will be to find plastic in the stomachs of various seabirds over the next few decades. Based on analysis of past studies they found that in 1960 plastic was found in less than 5% of individual seabirds, including albatrosses, shearwaters, and penguins, among others. That number had skyrocketed to 80% in the following 50 years. Now, as scientists look into the future they predict plastic ingestion will affect 99% of the planet’s seabird species by 2050. Just as shocking as that prediction is the estimate that 90% of seabirds alive today have eaten plastic at some point.
Denise Hardesty, co author of the study says “While the infamous garbage patches in the middle of the oceans have strikingly high densities of plastic, very few animals live here,” suggesting that the large collections of garbage are far from the highest threat to the health of these animals. The study actually points out that plastic waste along coastlines near Australia, South Africa and South America are the areas of highest risk to seabirds being affected by plastic ingestion.
So if 99% of seabirds will be swallowing plastics they mistake for food floating around in the ocean, how scary is it to ask about the same risks for other animals living there?