Monday, February 21, 2011

Enjoy the beach...take your litter with you!

You enjoyed a day at the beach. The seabirds were diving, dolphins jumping and you even managed to catch a couple of nice-sized fish. You pack up and leave behind, an empty foam cup, a plastic water bottle, 12 inches of twisted fishing line and a half-buried, plastic bag. Have you ever wondered what happens to the litter you leave behind?

Aside from its unsightly appearance, litter ultimately ends up in the ocean. Litter negatively affects marine animals in two ways, ingestion and entanglement. Many marine animals confuse ordinary litter with food and eat it or they become tangled in pieces of fishing line or gear. Whether eaten or entangled, litter causes infection, starvation and death for many animals.

Sea turtles don't know the difference between a floating plastic bag and a jellyfish, their favorite food. If eaten, a plastic bag may cause a blockage in the stomach resulting in starvation and death. A seabird may mistake a small piece of styrofoam for food, ingest it and ultimately starve and die. Pelicans can become entangled in a piece of discarded fishing line, restricting movement and flight. These animals may starve, drown or become severely injured from ordinary litter left on the beach.

The Sea Turtle Foundation estimates that 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die every year from ingesting or becoming entangled in ocean litter. So, enjoy the beach and remember to take your litter with you.
By guest blogger Debi Haynes Photo courtesy

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