Millions of marine species live in our planet’s oceans. And while life on land seems disconnected from their life underwater, the sad reality is that human actions are transgressing ecosystem boundaries at alarming rates. Just take a look at plastic pollution. According to the United Nations, hundreds of thousands of marine species ingest plastic waste items, mistaking them for food. Each year, nearly 1.1 million seabirds die after ingesting these plastics.
What’s even more alarming is that about 90 percent of all our plastic pollution is coming from just 10 rivers across the world. To get a fair idea of the impact of human pollution and the dire need to save our ocean, here’s a list of four marine animals that are on the brink of extinction.
Unlike the rest of its family that lives in freezing cold temperatures, the Hawaiian Monk Seal thrives in the islands’ temperate climate. The problem is that Hawaii’s coastal areas are heavily populated, and locals are spurring the development of its shores. But in the run-up to progress and urbanization, locals are forgetting that their actions are endangering the monk seal. Not only are stretched coastlines pushing its habitat back, but the amount of trash making its way into the waterways is also killing them. Fewer than 1200 Monk Seals remain in northwestern Hawaii’s waters today.
The North Atlantic Right whale’s population began dwindling in the 1930s. Since this whale is easily recognizable thanks to the white spots on its head, hunters considered it a convenient target.
Plus, the large amount of blubber causes it to float when it dies, so its easier to capture it. Commercial hunting caused the whale’s population to go down to just a 100—until laws were put in place to ban whale hunting. But whale hunting continues to this day, and many whales die after being tangled in fishing equipment. The population has only recovered to about 300 since the 1930s.
This species of freshwater dolphin finds its food by emitting ultrasonic sound waves because it’s blind. However, living in one of the most polluted rivers on the planet has caused the dolphin’s population to severely dwindle.
Locals have been carrying out major irrigation and construction projects in the area, causing these dolphins to meet their death after colliding with boats and getting tangled with fishing equipment. Experts believe a mere 1500 of these dolphins are living today.
The Kemp’s Ridley lives near the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. They find most of their food in shallow waters, but being this close to the sea means that the immense amount of pollution directly affects its species. About 7,000 to 9,000 of the turtle’s nesting females survive along the Atlantic coastlines.
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At first glance, jellyfish look like empty bags floating through the ocean. Their clear, gelatinous bodies have no heart or brain; to most people, the only thing worth noting about jellyfish is their ability to sting you.
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