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The Effects of Plastic Pollution on Hawaii’s Marine Life



Marine debris, plastic pollution, and water quality are our top three biggest environmental issues in Hawai’i, and these issues continue to worsen over time. “An estimated 15-20 tons of marine trash are being washed up on the shores of Hawaii every year, 96% of which is made from plastic material,” stated Hawaii Wildlife Fund. With the increase in tourism, the over consumption of plastic, and several other factors playing in contribution, our precious beaches are increasingly being polluted. This does not only affect us locals, but is very detrimental to our marine life. 

Plastic pollution can affect marine life through ways like suffocation and ingestion. However, what people are unaware of is that most of Hawaii’s plastic pollution is made up of discarded commercial fishing nets, also known as “ghost nets.” This leads to entanglement, which causes the death of approximately 100,000 animals each year. Plastic pollution also plays a big threat to our endangered marine species. According to Hawai’i Life Fund, “In Hawaiʻi, endangered Hawaiian monk seals and hawksbill sea turtles, threatened green sea turtles, plus many species of dolphins, whales, fish and other marine wildlife have been injured by marine debris.” I’d like to heavily emphasize the impacts that plastic pollution has on our monk seals and sea turtles, which many individuals and organizations have fought to protect. “A great number of vulnerable wildlife species are being driven closer to endangerment and extinction due to increasing plastic pollution and debris in the ocean, including the aforementioned Hawaiian monk seal – population estimated about 1,400 individuals – and the hawksbill turtle, where fewer than 200 nesting females have been spotted in Hawaii in the last 30 years,” stated Olivia Lai. 

Not only does plastic pollution affect our marine life, but also our water quality. Hawai’i has always been known as one of the top states with the cleanest air and water quality. However, as plastic pollution stands as a major problem, the quality of our water continuously deteriorates. Chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or other surrounding water sources, and also the ecosystem. This can cause a range of potentially harmful effects on the species that drink the water (Plastic planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil). In simple words, plastic pollution does not only greatly affect our marine life, but also us residents, since it contaminates our drinking water, which is very harmful to our health. 

Our state has, of course, enforced laws to reduce plastic pollution, such as the ban of plastic bags and single-use plastic food containers. There are also several organizations like the Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i, that hosts beach cleanups across our islands. However, it’s important to consider what we can do as individuals to help. Click this link for ways you can reduce plastic pollution: 10 Ways to Reduce Plastic

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    Nevaeh KApr 22, 2024 at 5:58 pm

    It’s sad to see and hear about how bad the plastic in Hawaii is destroying our Marine Life.