Dolphin killed by plastic ring

1st Sep 2014

We've all heard the mantra of 'Reduce, Re-use, Recycle' repeated so many times over the last few years and there's no doubt it has had a huge effect on how we dispose of our waste compared to 30 years ago when everything went into the black bag or the fireplace. What still amazes me, though, is the amount of seemingly unnecessary packaging and disposable 'goods' that are foisted on consumers and you may have noticed the 'Stop Pretty Litter' photo link at the bottom left of the IWDG homepage. Most of this junk is plastic which is going to be with us for a very, very long time - and from a marine perspective, most of it floats.

Sometimes, in the day to day routine it can be easy to forget why, for example, we have to pay for that plastic bag for the shopping. On 27 August, anyone present at Schull Pier in Co. Cork could see the direct impact of plastic waste in our oceans when a common dolphin in very weak condition live stranded nearby. The dolphin had a yellow plastic ring wrapped tightly around its beak and had apparently not fed for some time and, despite the best efforts of people present, died a short time later.

By the nature and sheer size of the marine environment, this is one of the few occasions (along with the occasional cetacean or basking shark washed ashore entangled in monofilament netting) when we can see first hand a glimpse of what is likely happening on a far larger scale away from view. I'll finish with a quote from a timely article published in The Independent (UK) newspaper on the previous day (26 August);

"Once in the sea, the plastics biodegrade extremely slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process. During this period, they entangle and slowly kills millions of sea creatures, while hundreds of species mistake the plastic for food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach problems in fish and birds and often choke them to death."

Mick O'Connell,

IWDG Strandings Officer