Plastic pollution endangering marine animals along Argentine coastal strip

Buenos Aires, Jan 21 (EFE).- Plastics have become the most abundant form of waste on the beaches of Buenos Aires province, the biggest tourist hotspot during Argentina’s Southern Hemisphere summer, sparking concern among environmental groups about the wellbeing of seagulls, turtles, seals and other marine wildlife.

“Historically, 96 percent of the green turtles admitted to our rescue center have interacted with plastics through ingestion. Plastics also have been found in the other species, but not an alarming percentage,” the head of conservation at the Mundo Marino Foundation, Karina Alvarez, was quoted as saying by that institution.

Alvarez co-authored a study, published last September in the international journal Frontiers in Marine Science, that shed light on how different species of the Rio de la Plata interact harmfully with plastic waste and evaluated those animals’ role as indicators of plastic pollution in that estuary.

Pablo Denuncio, who holds a doctorate in biology and co-authored that same study, said for his part that a species that serves as an indicator of that negative interaction with plastics can provide insight into the changes that affect the entire Rio de la Plata ecosystem.

The report found that at least 47 charismatic marine species interact – whether through ingestion or entanglement – with plastics in the Warm Temperate Southwest Atlantic province, which includes the Southeastern Brazil, Rio Grande, Uruguay-Buenos Aires Shelf and Rio de la Plata eco-regions.

Seabirds were the species with most reports regarding ingestion and/or entanglement in plastic (67.5 percent of the total), followed by sea turtles (20 percent) and marine mammals (12.5 percent).

Most of the plastics ingested also were found to come mainly from urban centers, particularly in the case of turtles (65.4 percent of the total), followed by fishing activities.

According to the latest provincial data from an analysis of coastal marine waste in a 42-hectare (0.16-square-mile) area, plastics represented 84.5 percent of all debris found along Buenos Aires province’s coastline in 2021, up from 83.2 percent the previous year.

The most common plastic pollutants were cigarette butts, plastic fragments (from larger-sized products that are broken down by the sun, wind and waves), nylon and cellophane packaging and plastic bags.

“For us, the most important thing is to raise people’s awareness that most of the waste comes from what we ourselves dispose of,” Alvarez said. “All of us need to commit to consuming more responsibly to prevent this waste from ending up on our coasts, in many cases affecting our marine fauna.” EFE


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