Whales are at 'significant' risk from ocean microplastic, says study

The team's analysis also found that species tend to congregate in areas that overlap "microplastic pollution hotspots", which include the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia.

Whales are at 'significant' risk from ocean microplastic, says study
(Representational image)

New Delhi: Plastic waste has been polluting oceans and other water bodies, putting the lives of marine animals in danger.

While scientists have previously warned about the increasing amount of plastic in oceans around the world, the results of a new study put emphasis on how grave the situation has become.

According to the study released in Australia on Monday, scientists have warned of the dangers microplastics pose to filter-feeding marine animals like manta rays and whales.

Led by Murdoch University, in collaboration with the Marine Megafauna Foundation in Indonesia, the research examined how toxic chemicals found in plastics can accumulate in the species over decades to pose a "significant risk" that can lead to stunted growth, altered development and reproductive problems, reports Xinhua news agency.

"Marine filter-feeders are likely to be at risk because they need to swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic metres of water daily in an effort to capture plankton," lead author Elitza Germanov explained in her findings.

"They can ingest microplastics directly from polluted water or indirectly through contaminated prey."

The team's analysis also found that species tend to congregate in areas that overlap "microplastic pollution hotspots", which include the Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle in Southeast Asia.

An estimated 300 million tonnes of plastic now litter the oceans, with more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons currently floating on the surface. It is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050.

Deep-sea animals which will eat “just about anything” are dependent on food raining down from the surface.

It is thought our seas now contain about 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.

This pollution is harming more than 600 species worldwide amid what many are now regarding as the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

Plastic waste is a menace that is the result of industrialization and to an extent, human activities, without realizing that it ends up affecting our health as well.

Plastic is considered inexpensive and durable, which is why it is most commonly used for packaging.

However, due to its slow degradation process, plastics can severely affect living organisms, especially marine life, through entanglement, direct ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that cause interruptions in biological functions.

(With IANS inputs)