A study from the University of Exeter published last week in the journal Scientific Reports shows that 67% of 46 sharks analysed contained microplastics and other man-made fibre in their digestive system. Scientists studied four species of demersal sharks that live near the seabed off the UK coast. A total of 379 particles were found and, though the impact on the sharks’ health is unknown, the researchers say it highlights the “pervasive nature of plastic pollution.”
In response to the study, Will McCallum, head of Oceans for Greenpeace UK said:
“Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life. Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic.”
Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar added:
“In recent weeks we have learned more about how badly we have saturated our air, water, and soil with plastic, to the point where there is likely to be bits of plastic in most fruits and vegetables. Mass use of throwaway plastic has also contaminated our oceans, to the point where two-thirds of sharks sampled had plastic in their stomachs. Sharks play a critical role in maintaining a balance to marine ecosystems, but many shark species are at risk due to industrial fishing. It is hard to see how we can protect sharks if we seem unwilling even to protect ourselves. Eliminating single-use plastic is one of the most straightforward steps we can take to improve the health of our oceans and our communities.”
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