At this point, not enough research has been done to determine the exact extent of the impact the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has on marine wildlife; however, researchers tend to agree that the damage done is most likely very extensive. According to one estimate, approximately 100,000 marine animals suffer trash-related deaths each year. This figure, of course, accounts for all trash-related deaths, not specifically those resulting from the GPGP. These deaths frequently involve animals ingesting plastic or becoming entangled in a piece of garbage. Another major concern expressed by scientists is the ingestion of “mermaid tears” or tiny bits of plastic, which are just the right size for ingestion by filter feeders. The fear is that since animals can’t digest plastic, these tiny bits of plastic will build up in their systems, and the systems of larger fish who eat them, and ultimately cause deaths. Moreover, plastics have a tendency to contain a great number of chemical pollutants which can do further harm to marine wildlife, and there is some concern about hitch hiking organisms arriving in the middle of the ocean on the backs of discarded water bottles and disrupting the ecosystem in ways that will likely not become apparent for some time.
While the patch doesn’t necessarily kill a lot of fish it does put toxins in them through the ingestion of plastic. It was found that about 1 in 10 fish in the area of the patch have plastic in their stomachs. Fish eat about 24,000 tons of plastic each year from the patch and as it continues to get worse we will be able to eat less and less fish since they will have such high toxin levels.
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