A dead finetooth shark with a plastic hat brim tightly constricting its neck and gills washed up on a beach in Point Verde, Florida, on Oct. 12, according to a Facebook post from St. Johns County Parks and Recreation.
The cause of death is unknown but it’s possible that the hat brim restricted the shark’s movement and ability to eat and breathe. It also likely caused the shark great discomfort.
“Although the cause of death is undetermined without a necropsy of the animal, this is another great example of how plastic marine debris is not just a global issue, but a local one as well,” the Facebook post said.
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Finetooth sharks migrate between Brazil and North Carolina, according to St. Johns County, and they can usually be found around Florida during this time of the year.
This shark’s death is the latest grisly example of a marine creature harmed by plastic.
Earlier in the year, a whale washed up on a beach at Cabo de Palos in Murcia, Spain, and scientists found 64 pounds of plastic in its gut. In August, 300 endangered turtles were found suffocated, trapped in discarded fishing nets off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. In the UK, a seal was found still alive with a frisbee constricting its neck, and penguins routinely get caught and killed in massive fishing nets that trawl oceans like curtains reaching from boat to ocean floor.
Fishing bycatch — discarded fishing equipment like nets and hooks — causes serious harm to turtles and other large marine animals. In fact, hundreds of thousands of turtles are killed by the materials annually, according to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).
WWF also estimated that more than 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises get killed by bycatch each year. And the United Nations found that ingesting plastic kills around 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals annually.
Scientists have found more than 700 species harmed by plastic, and it’s likely that all marine creatures are harmed in one way or another, according to National Geographic.
Even coral reefs are regularly harmed by plastic.
One study found that if a turtle eats a piece of plastic, its chance of dying increases by 20%, and it’s not hard for a turtle to ingest plastic.
Each year, an estimated 8 to 13 million tons enter the world’s oceans each year. That’s like loading up a commercial garbage truck with plastic and then dumping it into a body of water every single minute.
Another study estimates that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of microplastic in marine environments, blanketing sea floors, drifting up and down water columns, and collecting in massive gyres