Plastic pollution in the ocean threatens a great number of marine species. And unfortunately there are countless examples across the world. This June, a pilot whale died in Thailand after it ingested over 80 plastic bags. A short while afterwards, a green turtle, which is a protected species was also found with plastic in its body. While cases like this are becoming more publicised, this is unfortunately far from a new problem, as a photo published on Facebook demonstrates.
The image was published this week by the NGO Blue Planet Society. It shows a coelacanth lying on the ground, with an almost perfectly preserved crisp packet in its intestines. While the NGO explained to the site I Fucking Love Science that the image was from 2016, it might be older than that. According to the site Tribun Manado, the animal was caught in 2011 by a fisherman near Wawontulap in Indonesia, but the exact circumstances remain unclear.
The ‘living fossil’ not spared by waste
The discovery is even more tragic bearing in mind the coelacanth is not an ordinary fish. Sometimes described as a ‘living fossil,’ the animal has not evolved much for 350 million years.
‘Unchanged for 400 million years, even the 'living fossil' coelacanth isn't immune from our trash,’ lamented the Blue Planet Society in a caption to the image. It’s very bad news for the species, which has only a few hundred living specimens.
The coelacanth evolved off the coast of Africa and Indonesia in depths that at one time where thought to be safe from any pollution. While recent discoveries have proved the contrary, this image gives yet more proof that plastic pollution does not just impact mammals and species living close to the surface, but also threatens deep-sea creatures.
More environmentally-friendly packaging
An estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic waste are deposited into the ocean every year. It is accumulating, and fast becoming a more visible and worrying phenomenon across the world. As well as calling on consumers to change their habits and to reduce their waste, NGOs turn to industries and lobby for the development of biodegradable packaging.
"[Large consumer goods producers] are all fully aware that public opinion is against them. But some are resisting change because of cost, marketing, shelf-life, etc,’ John Hourston, founder of Blue Planet Society told IFLScience. ‘Along with other plastic pollution issues, Blue Planet Society have been pressuring the potato chip industry to make their packaging recyclable or biodegradable.’