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Effects of Marine Litter

© Still Pictures

Entanglement: Marine animals may be harmed by marine litter/debris when they get entangled. Around the world, people have reported entanglement for several marine species - including the sea turtles.


: Marine organisms and seabirds have been reported to have eaten plastics and other type of debris. A plastic bag floating on the sea surface resembles a jelly-fish, which are eaten by many species of fish and turtles.

Other threats to wildlife from marine litter:

© Marine Conservation Society

Smothering of the seabed: Debris can smother seabed animals while larger items can be dragged along the seabed by currents, scraping and tearing up the seabed which is a fragile and vital habitat for bottom dwellers.

Accumulation and dispersion of toxic substances: Plastic litter can be a source of persistent toxic substances as it resembles food closely enough to fool even a mature marine mammal. Ingested plastic is not only toxic but can often lead to a lingering death.

Environmental changes due to invasive species: Alien species may use debris in the ocean to migrate to new territory, where they can colonize and possibly overwhelm local marine ecosystems.

Disturbance from mechanical beach cleaning: When beach cleaning activities on nesting beaches involves use of techniques such as raking and mechanical equipment, existing nests be disturbed, or it can also result in compacted beaches that are difficult or impossible to use for nesting by turtles.

Damage to property & livelihood can be grouped into the following:

• Fishing boats and gear

• Safety risks for people at sea

• Damage to cooling water intakes

• Contamination of beaches

• Contamination of harbours

• Health hazards to people

• Injuries to grazing cattle