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Half a Million Hermit Crabs Die from Plastic Pollution
In late December 2019, it was reported that over half a million hermit crabs had died across two remote islands.
It’s well known the oceans are littered with plastic waste. More and more plastic waste is produced every day, we’re not talking just a little bit, we’re talking millions of tonnes across the world every day. What is, perhaps, more shocking is that only 50% of plastic waste is recycled and the rest ends up in landfill, on the streets and in streams, rivers and oceans.
The impact that ocean plastic has is well reported; we often see pictures of sealife wrapped in plastic bags or hear of whales washed up on the shore after ingesting large amounts of plastic. There are even reports that plastic is now airborne with microplastics found in some of the planets most remote areas.
This latest discovery only adds to the horror stories that plastic pollution is responsible for.
Half A Million Hermit Crabs
More than half a million hermit crabs were found dead after being trapped in plastic bottles and other rubbish on two remote islands. Surveys found 508,000 trapped crabs on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean and 61,000 in Henderson Island in the Pacific. This equates to around two crabs per square metre of the beach – a significant number of the hermit crab population.
Hermit crabs live in scavenged sea snail shells and when they die, they release a chemical signal to others of the species that a home is available. This attracts more crabs to the rubbish that killed them, creating a chain reaction.
The plastic found on beaches creates both a physical barrier for the crabs and a series of traps. Crabs attempting to adopt plastic bottles as their new home fall into them and are unable to escape before eventually dying.
Not a Localised Incident
It is expected that this issue is not just limited to the surveyed islands and that it is, in fact, happening on many more remote islands. All of the world’s shores are plagued with plastic waste that is having an impact on wildlife.
By now, it is unlikely that we will ever be able to rid the world of its plastic problem, at least not in our lifetime. However, what we can do is make a start to clean up the plastic that is already out there and do everything we can to cut down on single-use plastic.
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