Photo and words by @thomaspeschak | Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and can reach an incredible length of 40 feet. You think that being so gigantic would make these sharks immune to plastic pollution, but unfortunately this is not the case. A recent scientific study revealed that filter feeding marine animals like whale sharks accidentally ingest considerable amounts of microplastics. At less than five mm in size (about the size of a single sesame seed), microplastics are similar in dimension to a whale shark’s regular tiny plankton meals. Yes, the world’s largest fish feeds almost exclusively on near microscopic krill, copepods, fish eggs and crab larvae. Removing all microplastics from our oceans is pretty much an impossible task, so at present the only solution is preventing plastics from getting into ocean in the first place. We all have an important role to play in safeguarding whale sharks and other filter feeding marine animals from microplastics, which are regularly added to thousands of personal care, cleaning and cosmetic products including exfoliant scrubs and toothpastes. By not purchasing or consuming such items we can ensure that the endless flow of microplastics entering the ocean is finally dammed, allowing marine animals to feast on plankton without also ingesting plastic.
Entertainer and activist Zooey Deschanel (@zooeydeschanel), co-founder of the Farm Project (@farmproject), guest curated the @NatGeo feed today to mark ‘Planet or Plastic?’ (#PlanetorPlastic), a multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic crisis. Check back to see more images about our impacts on the environment from @NatGeo photographers.