The Grapevine

New Research Reveals Hundreds Of Sharks And Rays Are Entangled In Plastic

Plastic waste is currently one of today’s biggest problems that has yet to be solved with a good, long-lasting solution. And it’s starting to show, with landfills filling up with single-use plastics that take thousands of years to break down.

The ocean for one thing, is one its biggest victims, with large bodies of water getting covered by plastic waste so much that the only thing distinguishing it from land is the continuous ebb and flow of waves that rock the trash back and forth.

And now, according to new research, even aquatic life is now affected, with hundreds of sharks and rays getting entangled in the plastic mix.

The research was made on existing studies and Twitter posts by scientists at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Based on their initial research, the team was able to discover around 1,000 entanglements, although they said that this does not represent the entire world and the actual number could be significantly higher.

According to them, entanglement is much less worse than commercial fishing. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cause problems, especially to its victims.

Plastic entanglement – An issue to be addressed

For example, the researchers discovered an adult shortfin mako shark that’s entangled in fishing rope. This has caused barnacle growth in the rope, and has caused the shark to develop scoliosis in the back.

"The shark had clearly continued growing after becoming entangled, so the rope, which was covered in barnacles, had dug into its skin and damaged its spine," said Kristian Parton, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter,  in a statement. "There's a real animal welfare issue because entanglements can cause pain, suffering and even death,” he added.

Per the review, the researchers were able to discover 557 sharks and rays that are caught in plastic, spread out across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and spanning 34 species. Doing some research on Twitter also revealed around 74 entanglement reports. This includes 559 sharks and rays from 26 species.

Findings of the research were published in the journal Endangered Species Research.

Besides entangled sharks and rays, there are also countless aquatic animals that are harmed by plastic in one way or another. This includes whales mistaking microplastic for Krill, and sea turtles getting caught in plastic, injuring them for life.

sharks A new game by Tripwire Interactive lets you play as a shark tasked with taking revenge on a human that killed its mother. Guillaume Baviere, CC BY-SA 2.0.