Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘plastic bag’

How Plastic Pollution Impacts Wildlife – And What You Can Do!

Friday, August 19th, 2016
PLASTICS MAY THREATEN WILDLIFE FOR MANY YEARS

by Corrine Henn, Communication Coordinator

For those of us who call New Jersey home, we’ve all likely witnessed the impact human activities have on our environment and the species who thrive here. Although habitat loss, illegal poaching and invasive species can be equally devastating to an ecosystem, the presence of plastic pollution around our state is a threat that almost every individual can be found personally culpable.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover - which is which? It's easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover – which is which? It’s easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

Although many forms of pollution impact our native species, the summer months at the Jersey Shore often result in a surge of plastic debris that are left behind or improperly disposed of. Plastic pollution impacts millions of wildlife species globally, and the diverse number of species in New Jersey are no exception.

The plastic pollution that accumulates in our waterways and elsewhere around New Jersey poses a serious threat to native species. Single-use plastic products like plastic bags, bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, straws, and even balloons are not only unsustainable, but particularly dangerous for the animals that may become entangled in them or accidentally ingest them.

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

A few years ago, CWF’s Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst and his dedicated group of volunteers who monitor the osprey nests along the coast began to hold onto the trash and debris collected in and around the nests. While it may not be the most visually appealing educational resource, it made the growing problem of plastic pollution personal for Ben, in a way that words aren’t always able to convey.

Plastic bags, one of the most common single-use plastic products, were overwhelmingly prevalent in many of the nests. And osprey aren’t the only wildlife species facing this threat. Seals, terrapins, shorebirds, fish, whales, sharks and dolphins can also be impacted by plastic debris.

The presence of plastic in our daily lives is interminable and difficult to eliminate completely, but there are a number of things we can do to minimize the impact our habits may have on our wildlife!


Clean up after yourself:
Whether you’re spending the day at the beach, having a picnic by a lake, or tubing down a river, make sure you take any trash with you before leaving and recycle what you can.

Be mindful of your surroundings:
If you’re out and about and notice that someone left some trash behind, take a moment to throw it away.

Reduce your consumption:
A number of small changes from millions of people can make a big difference. For starters, invest in reusable shopping bags and water bottles. And cut down on the number of miscellaneous throw away plastics you use, including straws and plastic wrappers.

Donate:
Consider donating to CWF to support our conservation projects and ensure our biologists and our volunteers are able to continue surveying and aiding species in need.


LEARN MORE


 

Marine debris: Post-Sandy

Monday, August 26th, 2013
Is there more debris on coastal saltmarshes?

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Use the tennis ball as a reference point...

Use the tennis ball as a reference point…

Last year I started collecting trash and marine debris that I found at osprey nests along the Atlantic Coast. I’ve always removed trash from nests, especially trash that can harm an osprey through entanglement. Now it’s collected to use as an educational tool to make people more aware of the amount of trash that winds up in our waterways. (more…)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!!

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Single use plastic bag wrapped around ospreys neck…

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

We had quite a scare last week, on April 30th around 12:30pm, after getting a report from an observer of our Osprey Cam on our Facebook page. A single use plastic shopping bag had gotten wrapped around the neck of the incubating female. After getting the report we started to monitor the situation to see how it would unfold. The bag was loosely wrapped, so we hoped she would be able to free herself…which she did after an hour.

Here you can see the single use plastic bag around her neck.

Here you can see the single use plastic bag around her neck.

A lot of viewers and FB fans were asking why we weren’t going out to remove the bag from her neck. We answered each and every question to help make sure people knew that we were doing everything we could to protect her safety. First, we couldn’t just walk out to the nest (which is out in the middle of the salt marsh) without the female reacting to us and flying off the nest (with the plastic bag around her neck). Her flying off the nest with the bag around her neck would have only caused even more harm to her. She could have gotten snagged on a piece of nesting material and in the struggle could have choked to death or she could have fractured one of her eggs… Second, if she would have been tied down to the nest, then we would have enacted a plan to go out to the nest (after a certain amount of time) and released her. Our policy is that we will only intervene if it is a life or death situation. When we enter their nest sites we introduce stress to the birds which can ultimately do more harm than good. Finally, at least we have a camera to monitor the nest! Think of all the other 500+ nests in New Jersey where we only go out to monitor them once or twice during the nesting season. So much plastic winds up in osprey nests that it is a serious concern. People need to be more aware of their surroundings and do their best to make sure waste is properly disposed of.

There are ways you can help make a difference:

  1. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy and the amount of trash you produce
  2. Reuse what you can, recycle what you can’t
  3. Pick up litter when you see it. There is a great movement in Australia called “Take 3” and their message is simple: “Take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or… anywhere and you have made a difference.”  
  4. Stop or reduce your dependence on single use plastics
  5. Use reusable shopping bags
  6. Don’t release balloons!
The female struggles to get free of the bag.

The female struggles to get free of the bag.

Statistics for plastic recycling are dismal… According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “In 2010, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at almost 12 percent.” We’re lucky that she was able to free herself. This just proves that ospreys do not have an easy life. There are many threats to ospreys and they have very high mortality rates, which are around 80%.

On the positive side, the female and male continue to incubate three eggs at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. We should start to watch for hatching around May 19-20th. We have been writing nest news with other life history information on a weekly basis on our Osprey Cam page.

 

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