Deadly Act: Littering



Deadly Act: Littering

Mikaela Walsh, 4ocean Research Analyst

Baby nurse shark saved by local fisherman in the Bahamas.

Imagine swimming in the ocean, seeing a plastic bag floating around, and then leaving it. Or, walking along the coastline and seeing an abandoned plastic bag lying along the beach, would you throw it away? Someone else will, right? The bystander effect is in full force, but if everyone thinks the next person will throw it away, it most likely will remain in our environment, waiting to interfere with an animal's life.

This is what happened to a baby nurse shark in the Bahamas. A fisherman from @FlyFishingNassua posted an Instagram reel of a heartbreaking encounter that could have been deadly if they weren’t there to save this animal.

On a November morning, the captain was out on his morning fishing run when he looked down and saw a plastic bag moving in the water. When he took a second look, he noticed a baby nurse shark swimming or suffocating in this plastic bag. He quickly jumped into action, grabbed the plastic bag, and rescued the baby shark. He unleashed the animal from infinite doom as the nurse shark was delighted to swim away.


This baby nurse shark was most likely just gliding along the ocean floor when it ran into a plastic bag with no way to escape. Aquatic animals have different mechanisms to retrieve oxygen from the environment. Sharks, in particular, have an intriguing way of getting oxygen to fuel the body. They do not come to the surface and breathe like humans and other animals. Sharks need to have water flowing over their gills in order to breathe. A commonly known way sharks can get oxygen is by constantly swimming, known as obligated ram ventilation, like whale sharks and great white sharks. But this is not how all sharks breathe.

Many sharks use an alternate way. Nurse sharks have a special adaptation that allows them to pump water through the mouth over the gills, called buccal pumping. The gills obtain water by concurrent water flow over the capillaries, allowing them to take oxygen from the salt water and use it to maintain bodily function. Nurse sharks are bottom dwellers, meaning they primarily reside on the bottom of the ocean floor, similar to skates and rays.

4ocean is a major advocate of reducing single-use plastic consumption due to the amount of unnecessary plastic entering our environment each year. Most people don't participate in the willingness to litter, but this situation is an example of the implications of the destructive nature.

Littering is the willingness to leave plastic or trash in our environment instead of placing it in the proper disposal system. It is not only an eye sore, but it releases deadly weapons straight into the environment without even giving them the opportunity to be disposed of. Littering is an activity that everyone already knows is bad, but why do people still do it?

Billions of pounds of plastic and waste enter our oceans every year. Nearly a quarter of all marine debris entering is caused by littering or improper disposal of waste. This litter is especially harmful to the environment because it goes directly into the streams or rivers.

Educate and raise awareness for the consequences of littering and improper waste disposal. Luckily, this nurse shark was saved by a local fisherman, but many situations like this don’t have a happy outcome. This video is a sad reality that many marine organisms have to face daily, which can be completely eliminated. Reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags used and encourage your peers to switch to reusable options.Plastic bags are used for an average of twelve minutes, yet they can cause irreversible damage to our aquatic animals.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Don’t Litter.

Leave the environment better
than you found it!

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