Plastic pollution is increasing, killing marine life in Southwest Florida

There’s more than just fish in the sea.

Approximately 78 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year.

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“It is everywhere. The more we look the more we find,” said Gretchen Lovewell, a program manager for Stranding Investigations at MOTE Marine Lab.

There are thousands of pounds of plastic and other debris responsible for killing wildlife, according to scientists. There is expected to be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Kim Bassos-Hull, a senior biologist at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program
and MOTE Marine Lab, said she has done rescues and witnessed the effects on marine wildlife in areas like Naples, Marco Island and the Pine Island Sound.

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Scientists are now tracking a new problem in the sea: micro plastics.

“(It’s the) little pieces of plastics that break down smaller and smaller are now being ingested by the lower trophic levels like small, tiny plankton and fish and that stuff accumulates up the food chain,” Bassos-Hull said.

The plastics include packaging materials, plastic shopping bags and disposable drinking straws.

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MOTE Marine Lab partnered with an organization, Washed Ashore, and are launching an exhibit featuring sculptures made from items such as fishing gear, clothing and plastic bottles.

A prominent piece of art is named Greta the Great White shark, which was made to show the

“What we put out in the environment stays there and finds its way eventually in to the ocean,” Lovewell said.

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Southwest Florida residents can use the following tips to help keep the beaches and waterways clean:

  • Read labels and avoid personal care products that contain polyethylene
  • Use paper or reusable shopping bags
  • Avoid using plastic drinking straws
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle
  • Bring your own washable hot (or cold) drink cup
  • Use foil or a washable container as a “to go” box at restaurants or when packing lunches
  • Recycle as many plastic items as possible
  • Choose natural fabrics instead of synthetics



Reporter:Corey Lazar
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