Preventing the dangers of plastic, protecting marine life

First of all a sincere thank you to everyone who voted for our project “Clearing the way for sea turtles” at the Disney Friends for Change Project Green website over the past month. Thanks to you we’ll receive $50,000 from Disney to support making coastal communities in Dominica free of plastic bags and that’s going to make a huge difference for marine animals around the world.

Personally, I know I take for granted how easy it is to get reusable bags but in much of the world it’s anything but easy. In fact, while a growing number of US communities from LA County to the Outer Banks have banned plastic grocery bags, there is still somewhere between 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags used annually and 90% of those bags are discarded after a just single use. That adds up to a serious, and growing threat to animals whether on land or sea.

Plastic bags are the second most prevalent type of marine debris after cigarette butts and from gelatinous zooplankton to enormous blue whales-that’s bad news. Marine trash, mostly plastic, is killing an estimated million seabirds, and at least 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles annually. Whales, like rarely seen beaked whales are stranding- their stomaches filled with plastic bags. The numbers are growing as we discover what happens to plastics in the ocean, in fact only recently did we learn that on a microscopic level tiny plastic bits act as magnets for toxins- turning them into floating poisonous pellets waiting for a curious turtle or dolphin to ingest.

Plastics have been found in microscopic plankton to the largest whales and everything in between. Floating garbage dumps more than twice the size of Texas have been found where currents converge in the Pacific and swaths of swirling trash are forming at other convergence zones around the world.

Endangered Leatherback sea turtles, the largest of our planets seven species of sea turtle, easily mistake plastics in the ocean for it’s primary prey- pelagic jellies. Nearly half of all dead leatherbacks examined in recent years contained plastic or cellophane. Leatherbacks, who have been around our planet for 250 million years are succumbing to a human caused threat that’s only existed for the past few decades, a tiny blip in ecological time.

Dominica’s beaches are one of the few remaining Leatherback nesting sites so eliminating plastic bags here can make a big difference.

Through our Floating Classroom Program several communities around Dominica are starting to make a dent in marine debris by simply using cloth shopping bags. Thanks to your votes in support of Floating Classrooms we’ll make plastic bags in much of Dominica a thing of the past. In one small, but critical corner of the world, we’re gaining ground where humans and marine life meet.

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