Did you know that marine debris is a HUGE problem for environmentally sensitive ocean ecosystems like those found here in the fabulous Florida Keys?

Trash and other debris that makes its way into our oceans can create serious challenges for marine life and the overall health of our aquatic environments.

According to NOAA Marine Research:

Many factors determine how long it will take for debris to degrade, such as material type, size, thickness, and environmental conditions.

Human-made products are not completely biodegradable. These products will take a long time, possibly hundreds of years, to degrade. Some products such as glass never degrade. To determine how long it will take for debris to degrade depends on several factors such as material type, size, thickness, and environmental conditions (e.g., amount of exposure to sunlight or location – on the beach or floating at sea).

While photodegradable plastics (plastics capable of being broken down by light) may break down from its first state (or created state), these plastics never completely degrade, but actually divide into tiny pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are the multi-colored pieces of plastic that can be found in a handful of sand on the beach or in the ocean. Scientists are still investigating the impact of microplastics on our ocean and marine life.

The impact of junk, debris & trash in our oceans may seem like a minor issue to anyone who has not been exposed to the ways in which ocean trash is hurting our sensitive oceans. However, some of the most everyday objects can take months, years, even decades to completely biodegrade and cease to cause a potential threat to marine life and the ecosystem as a whole.

As this great infographic from the Beautiful Nation blog illustrates, everyday trash can take a considerable amount of time to break-down in our oceans and coastal marine environments:

marinedebrislandsea

At Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, we are passionate about conserving our precious marine habitats. The first step in this process involves educating both locals and tourists alike about the importance of keeping our oceans healthy, clean and protected for generations to come.

If, like us, you love the ocean and all of its amazing inhabitants, please take a moment to reconsider before throwing that seemingly innocent piece of trash out of the window or over the side of the boat.

Together, we can help to create a healthier, cleaner ocean for generations to come!