Sunday 25 August 2019

Turning tide on use of plastic

Seal Rescue Ireland takes part in plastic-free July

Seals can die as a result of ingesting plastic
Seals can die as a result of ingesting plastic

Cathy Lee

Seal Rescue Ireland is taking part in the Plastic Free July campaign at its Courtown centre, and is encouraging the people of Courtown, Gorey and the surrounding areas to follow suit.

'Plastic Free July is a great way to raise awareness on how easy and attainable it is to stop reliance on single use plastics, and to turn the tide on the mounting danger facing our seas, landfills, wildlife, and future generations,' said Melanie Croce, executive director of Seal Rescue Ireland.

Plastic Free July is a campaign by the Plastic Free Foundation, a non-profit organisation that was established in Australia in 2017 and its vision is to see a world free of plastic waste.

'All plastic that has ever been produced is still in existence today. At the rate in which humans are producing and disposing of plastics, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. For opportunistic animals, like seals, this can be a big problem,' said Melanie.

She explained that for some seals that have come through the sanctuary, unfortunately interacting with plastic has been deadly.

'In 2014 a seal named Karma was rescued and seemed to be on the road to recovery, when she mysteriously passed away. An autopsy revealed a plastic crisp packet stuck in her stomach. As opportunistic predators, seals naturally feed on a wide variety of prey of various shapes, sizes and colours. The reflective coating of the crisp packet had likely been mistaken for a fish, tragically illustrating the damage just one piece of marine plastic can do for an unsuspecting seal,' she said.

A similar situation happened late last year, when a starved grey seal pup named Sugar also accidentally swallowed some bits of plastic.

'A starving orphaned seal might swallow anything it finds nearby out of desperation, and in Sugar's unfortunate case the beach was littered with plastic rubbish. When he finally arrived on site, our team administered fluids to combat dehydration. However, no sooner had he been tube fed, than the fluids came back up carrying with them small pieces of plastic that had been in his empty stomach. Despite our best attempts, Sugar's condition was too far gone, and the plastic pieces had done their damage. Sadly he passed away shortly after,' said Melanie.

The July campaign encourages people to bring their own reusable cups and bottles, to be prepared when food shopping and avoid using single-use plastic bags, also to be mindful of how you are using your household bins in terms of correct waste.

It also asks people to be vocal and active, taking part in beach clean-ups, using social media to raise awareness and challenging businesses about their use of reusables.

'Going completely plastic free all at once might be ambitious, but small steps taken by a majority will make the greatest impact by far. We are all faced with decisions every day that make us either part of the solution or part of the problem, we can all use our purchasing power to support products and companies that avoid unnecessary plastic packaging,' said Melanie.

During the month, Seal Rescue Ireland will be sharing some facts about the impact plastic pollution is having on our planet and tips on how you can make some simple changes in your daily lives to reduce your plastic usage, which can be found on its Facebook page.

Gorey Guardian