Microplastics causing macro problems for filter-feeding marine animals

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We already know that micro plastics are doing extensive damage to our sea life.

Up to 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts, our beautiful corals are perishing from disease, and fish think it’s their food, so ultimately it ends up on our plates too.

Something that has come to my attention recently, is the impact of micro plastics on filter-feeding marine animals, like manta rays and whale sharks.

In order to capture plankton, they ingest hundreds to thousands of cubic metres of water daily.

If there is any rubbish floating around, these ocean giants simply don’t have a choice.

According to research by Murdoch University and the Marine Megafauna Foundation, the chemicals and pollutants in the plastic can change biological processes in the animals, like altered growth, development, and reproduction, including reduced fertility.

It also comes at no real surprise that eating plastic could negatively impact their digestion system too.

Elitza Germanov, a researcher at the Marine Megafauna Foundation and co-author the study, says understanding the effects of micro plastic contamination through long term metabolomics studies will help to shed more light on the issue.

“As plastic production is projected to increase globally, the establishment of long-term monitoring programs is needed in the feeding grounds of these ocean giants, so we can check on toxicity levels in these creatures over a period of time,” she said.

 

“The micro plastics issue potentially places the viability of nature based tourism involving these creatures under threat also. This kind of tourism is a significant source of income in the regions where filter feeders congregate.”

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“Raising awareness of this issue in communities, among governing bodies and industries could help to change behaviours around the production, management and use of plastics.”