A whisper from the woods

The Impact of Plastic Pollution on Marine Life

Nov 13, 2023

Did you know that…

70% of the planet’s surface is covered in water,
97% of the Earth’s water is salt water (oceans and seas),
Only 3% is freshwater,
And that only 1% is available for human consumption!

Considering these numbers, Imam will tell us more about the effects of plastic pollution on marine life.

Imam lives in Nigeria, and his country has a coastline of nearly 850 kilometers, with nine out of the thirty-six states situated on the Atlantic coast (Gulf of Guinea). Nigeria has a population of more than 225 million people, and approximately 20 million people live along the coastal zone. This coastal area has a lot of industrial activities, such as fishing, shipping, marine manufacturing, construction, and more.

Nigeria’s coast (Google Maps)

With coastal industries and people inhabiting this space, plastic pollution might almost seem inevitable. Imam says that plastic pollution has a significant impact on marine life, leading to various negative consequences.

Here are some of the problems faced due to the plastic pollution:

  1. Entanglement: Marine animals such as dolphins, seals, turtles, and birds often get entangled in plastic debris like fishing nets, six-pack rings, and plastic bags. This can lead to severe injuries, lacerations, and even death.
  2. Ingestion: Marine animals, particularly fish, seabirds, and turtles, mistake small plastic fragments and microplastics for food. This ingestion can cause blockage of the digestive system, leading to malnutrition, starvation, and even death.
  3. Chemical toxicity: Plastics contain various chemicals, including additives and pollutants, which can leach into the marine environment. When ingested or absorbed by marine animals, these chemicals can disrupt their endocrine system, impair their reproductive health, and cause long-term health issues.
  4. Habitat destruction: Plastic pollution can damage coral reefs, seagrasses, and other marine habitats. Large plastic debris can smother and destroy fragile ecosystems, disrupting the balance of the marine ecosystem and affecting the overall biodiversity.
  5. Disruption of the food web: Plastic pollution can reduce the availability of food sources for marine organisms. For example, as microplastics are mistaken for plankton by filter-feeding animals like whales or manta rays, it can lead to a decrease in their food supply, potentially affecting their survival and reproductive capacity.
  6. Altered behavior: Floating plastic debris can alter the behavior of marine animals. For instance, seabirds may mistake plastic fragments for prey and feed them to their chicks, leading to malnutrition and reduced breeding success.
  7. Death and population decline: The cumulative impact of plastic pollution on marine life often leads to increased mortality rates and population decline for many species. This depletion can have cascading effects on the entire marine ecosystem, including the loss of important ecological functions and services.

So, addressing the issue of plastic pollution and reducing its impact is crucial to protect marine life, and to preserve the health and integrity of our oceans!

What do you think? How do you deal with plastic pollution in your area? Please tell us about your experience in the comment section below!


Written by Imam Maiyaki,
GTI Regional Coordinator,

– – – – –

You can learn more about “Water, the Blue Gold” by checking out this article on our website.

For further reading on Nigeria’s coastline and population, see the articles below (external links):
Marine resources of Nigeria
Nigeria Population


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