Baby Dolphin Does a Happy Dance After Rescue from Plastic Bag
In an inspiring story, a baby dolphin was rescued from the deadly grips of a plastic bag last month after getting stuck in the piece of dangerous refuse off the coast of Sao Paolo. A group of fishermen in a small boat spotted the little mammal as it struggled to free itself from a bright green shopping bag. After more than one attempt, the fishermen finally netted the small dolphin, removed the offending bag, and released the creature back into the wild.
This story with a happy ending does, unfortunately, highlight the risks posed to wildlife, and to humans, by plastic refuse in oceans, seas and waterways. An estimated 10% of all of the plastic produced each year ends up in the ocean, and amounts to 90% of all trash floating in the world's oceans. This plastic refuse kills fish and other ocean-dependent wildlife when they become ensnared in it and when they ingest it, and poses risks for humans as well.
Dr. Chelsea Rochman at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis has been studying fish that eat toxin-ladin plastics in a lab setting. She has found that the plastics’ toxins transfer to the fish’s tissue after ingestion, and she confirms that her studies “have shown the transfer of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from plastic to fish.”
In particular, says Rochman, “we observed stress in the livers of fish exposed to the virgin and marine plastic treatment with greater effects in fish exposed to marine plastic. The liver is a critical organ for the excretion of toxins in our bodies. A compromised liver could lead to greater effects in organisms if it can no longer eliminate toxins.”
The results of the study have further ramifications for healthy human diets. “This is one reason we chose fish, because it is a source of protein for humans all across the globe,” Rochman says. “Because we found that plastics do transfer chemicals to fish, and because fish do eat plastic in nature, there is evidence that plastic may be a contributor of POPs in our seafood.”
What You Can Do
To learn what you can do about plastic pollution, consider joining these 5GYRES campaigns to combat ocean pollution from plastic wastes:
Also consider joining the Plastic Pollution Coalition in its efforts to to work towards a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts.