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Posted on Fri 26 Mar 2021
Last year as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased and more people spent time outside, the UK’s marine life suffered untold damage as a result - from city canals to rural beaches, the effect was felt in waters across the country.
Now, SEA LIFE aquariums and their official charity the SEA LIFE Trust are launching the Don’t Make Easter Rubbish! campaign to prevent this occurring again, reminding visitors across the UK that the amazing creatures that live in our seas continue to need their love and protection - now more than ever.
Littering and plastic pollution will also have a significant impact for the long-term future of the world’s waters and ecosystems. It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans each year and that by 2050, the oceans could have more plastic than fish.
SEA LIFE aquariums and the SEA LIFE Trust teams across the UK take part in regular beach and waterway cleans, where the most common items found are plastic bottles and bottle tops, straws, food wrappers and cigarette butts. Sadly, this is now starting to include disposable face masks too, as discovered by fellow organisation the Marine Conservation Society, who discovered these on 30% of the beaches they cleaned last year. This isn’t an easy fix – disposable face masks can take up to 450 years to break down in the environment.
Litter (like face masks) getting into waterways poses a huge risk to hundreds of wildlife species, including seals, seabirds, turtles and whales, all of whom have mistaken marine litter for food, resulting in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.
Amount of time it can take for litter items to biodegrade:
- Cigarette butts – 10+ years
- Coffee cup – 50 years
- Plastic bags – 20-50 years
- Crisp packet – 80+ years
- Straws – 200 years
- Plastic bottles - average 450-1000 years
- Single use face masks – 450+ years
Plastics can also break down and create microplastics. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic - under 5mm in length - which are then small enough to enter the environment, marine life and eventually humans! Evidence of microplastics can be found throughout our seas and oceans, but also in rivers, soils, and also in the tissue of animals and plants.
It is estimated that there are 5.25 trillion plastic particles in the world’s oceans - that’s nearly 700 pieces for every person on the planet.
A young grey seal pup, nicknamed Brian May, was discovered in an emaciated state and subsequently cared for by the SEA LIFE Trust’s Cornish Seal Sanctuary based in Gweek. After a few days care from their specialist care team, he excreted pieces of a plastic bag which had been blocking his gut. Luckily with the team’s help, Brian was able to make a full recovery and was released back in to the wild. A good ending for him but sadly not all marine life is so lucky.
SEA LIFE and the SEA LIFE Trust are appealing to the public to pledge support to help protect marine animals like Brian May for generations to come.
The SEA LIFE Trust, supported by partners at SEA LIFE aquariums, work globally to reduce plastic pollution by running campaigns and supporting projects like ‘Don’t Make Easter Rubbish’ that can help to reduce the wave of plastic entering our oceans.
This summer, they plan to run a Global Beach Clean, leading the charge on cleaning up beaches, canals and waterways around the UK, from Scarborough to Weymouth. Supporters are encouraged to hold their own beach or river clean near their home as a simple and effective way in which everybody can help to turn the tide on litter, starting with their own local areas – all litter ends up in our oceans. Recent cleans have collected almost 2,000 kg of litter – the equivalent weight of two adult beluga whales.
To support the work being done by SEA LIFE and the SEA LIFE Trust in protecting marine life for generations to come, text RUBBISH to 70085 to donate £5 (texts cost £5 plus one standard rate message) or pledge online here.
For more information on the ‘Don’t Make Easter Rubbish!’ campaign, visit www.visitsealife.com/rubbish.
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