According to the IUCN, at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. The main sources of marine plastic are land-based, from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping.
What happens when marine animals are exposed to these synthetic materials? Mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish can be deadly for hungry sea turtles and entanglement in debris is always a risk. This gallery includes images of animals living with and sometimes suffering from the inflow of plastic trash into their habitat. Nudibranchs lay eggs on bottles, a tiny nautilus rides a piece of a potato chip bag in the ocean current and pilotfish shelter beneath floating trash to protect themselves from hunting seabirds.