Luke 21:11 includes ‘pestilence’ of marine life, animal life, plant life, bird life and insect life. Stress and die-offs of earth’s bio-diversity
By JOHN INGHAM, ENVIRONMENT EDITOR
PUBLISHED: 17:30, Wed, Jan 30, 2019 | UPDATED: 17:42, Wed, Jan 30, 2019
This month alone between 30 and 40 dolphins and porpoises have been washed ashore in Cornwall, according to campaigners. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust is investigating the impact of plastic on cetaceans at the top of the food chain. The latest discovery was on Pentewan beach near St Austell. Other carcasses have been seen nearby at Par, Porthtowan, Penzance and the Rame Peninsula.
CWT marine conservation officer Niki Clear said: “The number being washed ashore is high but not unprecedented. “There tend to be a higher number in winter. The record was in January 2017 when 70 were found on the coastline. “It’s partly due to environmental factors such as high winds pushing animals ashore.” The common cause of death was bycatch, or accidentally getting caught in fishing boat nets, which accounts for a quarter. Disease killed 19 percent with 15 percent of deaths due to starvation or hypothermia. Dolphins do not seem to suffer from plastic pollution unlike seals and whales, which can eat large plastic waste such as bags.
But Ms Clear said research is under way into the impact of tiny pieces of plastic which have been eroded by wind and waves. Eventually they break down into microplastic or even smaller nanoplastic which can be absorbed by plankton. Ms Clear said: “We’re looking at microplastic which is eaten by plankton which are eaten by fish which are eaten by dolphins.”
Experts say that about eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s seas every year.
The debris seen on beaches represents just 10 per cent of the plastic in the seas, with most of it sinking to the seabed where it can stay for hundreds of years. Turtles eat plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish while sharp shards can puncture the stomachs of predator birds.
Virtually all 8,000 gannet nests on Alderney contain some plastic.
Last month the Daily Express revealed the toll being taken by plastic on one of Britain’s biggest seal colonies, Horsey in Norfolk. A seal was found with a “doughnut” Frisbee round its neck and others were tangled up in old fishing nets. The seals are thought to investigate the objects floating in the sea and then get stuck. As they grow, the toy discs cut into their necks and slowly strangle them.