Take a stroll on any beach in the Northeast Pacific and you’re bound to come across plastic waste— bottle caps, toothbrushes, bags, and cigarette butts. Marine pollution, a combination of garbage and chemicals most of which has originated on land, is dumped, washed or blown into the ocean on a daily basis. This waste affects all ocean environments by damaging habitats and directly affecting the health of creatures large and small. Harmful chemicals enter the ocean via wastewater or when human activities lead to runoff that ultimately flows into the ocean. Plastic waste is long-lasting and breaks down into microplastics. These, alongside microfibers, such as those from clothing, are consumed and have been detected in a range of marine species from plankton to whales. In the Northeast Pacific, marine pollution is impacting iconic, culturally-important species such as salmon and killer whales as well as people and the economy. Taking action against marine pollution requires concerted efforts to both understand current and emerging threats and to implement effective policies.
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