This tiny jellyfish and the octopus behind it are about the size of a pencil led, translucent, and barely visible to the naked eye. Key species near the base of the food web such as herring, sardines, menhaden and mullet routinely ingest plastic fragments as they filter the water for the nutritious plankton they feed on.
Pacific herring feed by facing into the current, hanging their jaws open, and sifting out tiny plants and animals. As plastics break down into fragments – as all plastics from discarded shopping bags to cigarette butts eventually do – the fragments mix in with the rest of the planktonic drift and are consumed by small fish… which are in turn consumed by larger fish, whales, sea lions and us.
The tethered balloon that slipped from a child’s hand
The monofilament net the fisherman left hanging on a reef
The cigarette butt that doesn’t matter
and shopping bags,
and Christmas ribbons,
and cups used only once
and the plastic packaging
inside the shopping bags,
the throw-away toys
inside the Christmas package
the straws and the lids on the used-once cups
are smothering our oceans
and everything in our oceans
These photos were taken at the Seward Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska. Visit an aquarium today to learn more about what you can do to help keep our oceans clean and healthy.