The impact of plastic on cetaceans with consideration of plastics generated by the COVID19 pandemic
Sonja Eisfeld-Pierantonio and Nino Pierantonio
The implications of plastic pollution on marine wildlife, in particular cetaceans, are being wildly discussed in several fora, including the recent IWC workshop on marine debris held in December, 2019. Following on from previous work, we present the most recent cases from the scientific literature and worldwide news on the interactions between cetaceans and marine debris, with particular reference to ocean plastic. Eighty percent of cetacean species have interacted with marine debris, either by ingestion or entanglement. We present and discuss the conservation and welfare consequences at individual and population level and provide an initial overview of the environmental implications of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. High volumes of pandemic-related debris have reached the oceans in the past 14 months with the potential to heavily affect cetacean populations. We argue that the pandemic not only adds further threats to cetacean populations, but that it also offers a unique opportunity to recognise the link between the production, consumption and discardment of plastic in general. The understanding of this specific “COVID19 litter cycle” could in fact aid to inform the industrial, social and management sectors and clarify their dynamics towards effective mitigation and conservation efforts.