Note: We adjusted the cover art on this report after learning that the image had been altered, which was never disclosed.
In 2019, news outlets across the world reported on a beaked whale that died after ingesting more than 88 pounds of plastic. The whale had starved, and its digestive acid, unable to break down the compacted mass filling its stomach, had begun eating away at the animal from the inside out. But not all incidents like this make the news.
Many tragedies in the ocean go unobserved, and the ones caused by plastic are no different. The plastics crisis is deep, wide and pervasive, affecting ecosystems and animals in ways we are only beginning to understand. In this report, Oceana has compiled for the first time the available data on plastic ingestion and entanglements in marine mammals and sea turtles in U.S. waters. This begins to paint a picture of an unfolding disaster: the flood of plastics into our oceans and the devastating impact it is having on marine life.
After surveying dozens of government agencies, organizations and institutions that collect data on the impact of plastic on marine animals, Oceana found evidence of nearly 1,800 animals from 40 different species swallowing or becoming entangled in plastic since 2009. Of those, a staggering 88% were species listed as endangered or threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.
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