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Plastic pollution is currently the biggest threat to the ocean

Over the past couple of decades we have learned that plastic pollution is a significant threat to our oceans. According to a 2015 study,[1] there are 5.25 trillion plastic pieces floating around, equivalent to 720 pieces for every person alive on the planet.  This plastic weighs more than 225,000 tonnes. Another study put the number between 15 and 51 trillion particles, most of which are very small.[2]But debris of any size – from discarded fishing nets to the tiniest particles – can harm marine life when animals become entangled or mistake it for food.[3]

However, while plastic pollution is among the most serious threats, a larger problem may be how it compounds all the other stresses on ocean health. These threats include climate change, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and habitat destruction.[4]The real problem the ocean faces is the combination of human impacts and our lack of will to address them.

Plastic pollution is just one of the many serious threats to the oceans. And while it might be easy to assume the oceans are dying, they aren’t dead yet. And if we take action now we still have a chance to deal with plastic and other human impacts.

[1] Eriksen, M. et al., 2014. Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. Available here
[2] Worm, B. et al., 2017. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 2017. 42:1–26 Available here 
[3] UNEP, 2016. Marine plastic debris and microplastics – Global lessons and research to inspire action and guide policy change. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi
[4] Halpern, B. S. et al., 2008.A Global Map of Human Impact on Marine Ecosystems. Science 319, 948. DOI: 10.1126/science.1149345

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