Problematic Plastics

Inhabitat

Plastic has been found throughout the entire water column, from the surface waters to the deep-sea trenches, wrapped around the bodies, and inside the stomachs of wildlife, in all oceans around the world!

Due to plastic being inexpensive to produce, single-use plastics have a predominant role in our lives, and because of their durability it takes hundreds of years for plastic to degrade. Plastic bags we use every day can take anywhere between 10 and 1,000 years to decompose, and plastic bottles can take 450 years or more!

It is estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the marine environment every year (Parton et al. 2019) and due to a lack of appropriate waste management, this could increase even further in the coming years. Our oceans are littered with various types of plastics that cause harm to ocean life, including our local sharks, skates and rays. This litter can be broadly divided in to 2 groups: fishing-based sources and land-based sources.

Fishing-based sources originate from accidental and purposefully discarded, broken or lost fishing gear, line, nets and rope. This particular type of debris can cause ghost fishing, where nets and lines drift across oceans capturing and killing wildlife it comes in contact with, including sharks.

Entangled sharks

Anthony O'Connor

ANLRS

Around 400 million metres of fishing line is discarded by recreational anglers every year (that’s enough to reach the moon)! And with anglers respooling on average a couple of reels a year, it is crucial that you dispose of your used line properly!

Infographic

Putting old line in your household bin means that it will end up in landfill and could end up in the ocean. Instead, it can be brought to an Angling Direct store who work with the Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme (ANLRS) to recycle your line into a wide variety of products including traffic cones, sunglasses, skateboards, wetsuits and swimwear!

Land-based sources of marine litter include items like plastic packaging around food, plastic bags, straws, and shampoo bottles to name just a few. These forms of plastic litter tend to end up in the ocean due to poor waste management and can lead to ingestion by sharks, with filter feeding sharks such as the Basking shark thought to be particularly vulnerable.

The Basking shark has to filter thousands of litres of water every day in order to take in enough plankton to keep themselves nourished. This means that it is very likely that they are ingesting microplastics directly from polluted water, as well as from the consumption of contaminated plankton they are eating. Microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of filter-feeders such as the basking sharks and could also damage and block their gills!

Plastic has been found in the stomachs of a number of our local species, including the Small-spotted catshark and the Critically Endangered Porbeagle, as well as our migratory visitor, the Blue Shark. This means that it is important to try and reduce your plastic use as much as possible by finding alternatives for single-use plastics in your home and recycle all plastic where possible! There are many ways you can swap out single use plastic in your life, from switching plastic shopping bags to fabric tote bags, refusing plastic straws and take away packaging, or by purchasing refills for products instead of new bottles each time. You could even get involved with any beach cleans that may be happening in your local area!

Bag on a beach