Some 500 dead sea lions were discovered decomposing on a beach, 250 miles north of the Peruvian capital, Lima, possibly after ingesting massive amounts of plastic polluting the waters, according to a report by Salon.
While the local governor, however, accused fishermen, who compete with the animals for shellfish, of having poisoned them, investigators are looking into possible explainations, such as diseases.
Marine animals often confuse plastic bags and garbage for prey and ingest them. According to the Sea Turtle Foundation, plastic debris is to blame for the deaths of a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year.
The North Pacific Gyre, one of the world’s largest ocean gyres, is often referred to as the Pacific trash vortex, due to high concentrations of floating plastic debris.
Due to rotational currents, trash is captured from across the Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America and Japan, and then is gradually moved towards the North Pacific Gyre’s center, where it becomes trapped.
The vortex is made of some 100 million tons of plastic, including large objects or disintegrated objects and particles. About half of them float atop the ocean’s surface, while the remaining, heavier half, can be found in the water column below it or along the bottom of the ocean.
The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that worldwide, each square mile of ocean water contains 46,000 pieces of garbage.
Plastic does not biodegrade, meaning it does not break down into natural elements. Rather, it photodegrades, gradually splitting into small, tiny particles. When small enough, it can be ingested by aquatic organisms, and therefore is able to enter the food chain.
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