Plastics and how they are affecting our planet's Whales

Plastics and how they are affecting our planet's Whales

Nov 20, 2022Andrew Abbey

Plastic on our Planet

As a self-care brand with a key focus on environmental impact, we think it is of utmost importance to talk about the reasons behind why we choose to live this lifestyle. Often, brands take the easy route when it comes to production and materials used to create these products, simply because of how this age of consumerism is booming. Plastic is cheaper, we get it. This causes a tendency to overlook the true harm certain products - such as plastic have on our world.

First Whale Watch

I’d like to start off with a story of a journey back to when I was about 10 or 11. I took a trip with my mom out to sea to go whale watching. She was in in a college biology class at the time, and she decided to bring me along on the adventure. As we drifted out into the coastline, I began to feel sea sick because the boat was so tiny. I kept my face down and sniffled in the way that young children do when they don’t get their way. I was certain whatever was out there wasn’t worth the troubles I was facing. All the sudden I heard a noise from the Professor, and I looked up. She practiced whale calls and she let out this strange noise I’d never heard before. Then something beautiful happened before my eyes. Slowly but surely these majestic beings began to approach. I remember shooting up out of my seat giddy with excitement. I couldn’t believe my eyes and what was in front of me in its purest form. Of course, I knew what a whale was from pictures by this age but seeing them up close, hearing the calls, seeing the interactions between whales and humans was an experience I knew I’d never forget. Truly, they were kind and gentle - we respected their home, and they respected us. With this memory being a key part of my life, it truly saddens me to see the immense harm and monumental impact plastic brings on these mammals and their environment.

Plastic is a Parasite

Plastic has infiltrated every ecosystem in every ocean on the planet, whales have been most severely impacted. According to an article by Greg Merrill, “the global blue whale population has gone down 89 percent (since before commercial whaling began in 1911) and based on recent estimates, an equivalent to about 3.5 times the weight of theentire blue whale population (which is 25,000) is put into the ocean every year”. Every. Single. Year.

Globally, more than 240 wildlife species, including whales, are known to have ingested plastic, which can result in internal injuries and death. A recent study of marine life found that flexible plastic like plastic bags and packaging is responsible for the largest proportion of deaths from debris. But whales are not the only species to be harmed by plastic debris. Dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds, and fish around the globe are harmed as well. It’s a domino effect.

Plastic Pile

Far and Wide

One of the most damaging types of marine plastic pollution is lost, or discarded fishing gear, otherwise known as “ghost gear.” 10% of the world’s ocean plastic pollution is made up of plastic-based materials and every year 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises get entangled in these nets and lines and die a slow and painful death through suffocation, starvation, or exhaustion. Not only that, but plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decomposeand therefore continue to wreak havoc on the environment. Ghost gear can continue to catch any marine species in itspath for years and years, potentially decimating important food resources as well as endangered species. Plastic pollution damages vital ocean habitats and poses danger to navigation and their livelihoods. Even the tiny bits of plastic - only 5 mm in size have been found in whales and their prey. But their impacts are very different. This micro-pollution can break down from sunlight and otherenvironmental factors into its invisible toxic chemical compounds. These compounds pose a risk to marine ecosystems and biodiversity, working their way up the marine food web over years and across generations of species and can disrupt the development and reproductive health of marine animals.

Safe & Sound?

To truly keep our environment safe and healthy, we must know what truly happens beneath the surface. We cannot put off or deny any longer the impact of our own actions. Instead, we must simply try. It is not possible to fully heal everything at once, that’s a task no one can achieve on their own. But this does not render us powerless, baby steps are just as important as the big ones. The next time you go to grab water, think about using an alternative to a plastic bottle, such as a reusable water bottle, or using a metal straw instead of a plastic one. Instead of throwing a plastic container away in the trash - try to recycle it. These things may seem useless and small, but they are not. These little moments and decisions bring us closer to ultimately making a change in our environment and bringing us closer to a happy and healthy ecosystem.

Written by Sophia Butler

Copy edited by Andrew Abbey

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