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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 684279, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/684279
Review Article

Cetaceans and Marine Debris: The Great Unknown

Science Directorate, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Brookfield House, 38 St Paul Street, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 1LJ, UK

Received 1 March 2012; Accepted 4 May 2012

Academic Editor: E. C. M. (Chris) Parsons

Copyright © 2012 Mark Peter Simmonds. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Plastics and other marine debris have been found in the gastrointestinal tracts of cetaceans, including instances where large quantities of material have been found that are likely to cause impairment to digestive processes and other examples, where other morbidity and even death have resulted. In some instances, debris may have been ingested as a result of the stranding process and, in others, it may have been ingested when feeding. Those species that are suction or “ram” feeders may be most at risk. There is also evidence of entanglement of cetaceans in marine debris. However, it is usually difficult to distinguish entanglement in active fishing gear from that in lost or discarded gear. The overall significance of the threat from ingested plastics and other debris remains unclear for any population or species of cetaceans, although there are concerns for some taxa, including at the population level, and marine debris in the oceans continues to grow. Further research including the compilation of unpublished material and the investigation of important habitat areas is strongly recommended.