Pollution Affects Penguins In Antarctica

By Hannah Lozada

Pollution has sadly made its way to penguins in Antarctica. A colony of 41 dead emperor penguin chicks were discovered in Atka Bay by researchers; their deaths were presumably caused by the microplastics found in the waters.

Scientists examined the stomachs of the dead chicks to determine the amount of contamination in their food sources. They found 85 plastic particles that were 0.5 millimeters in length. The great news was that these particles actually weren’t microplastics. The contamination consisted of animal and plant matter: fibers from clothes, or airborne particles. The researchers also found no evidence of synthetic polymers in the chicks. 

Despite the positive news, the fate of the penguins remains unsolved. The increase of microplastics can be caused by tourists and commercial fishing, and the northern currents could also transfer lots of pollution to Antarctica. 

Pollution is also causing climate change. Antarctica is losing more and more ice, which is seriously affecting the penguin’s habitat. Without ice to stand on, emperor adults and chicks will drown in the water and be consumed by their predators.

Penguins are very important for the food chain. They hunt fish, squid, and krill.  They are prey for leopard seals and sharks. The increase of trash filling the ocean could infect the penguin’s food source. Without penguins, the population of seafood would heavily increase, and the amount of seals and sharks would decrease. 

To decrease the amount of litter being released into the water, people need to start recycling and disposing trash properly. People need to stop littering and they need to throw their trash away in garbage bins. Thankfully, researchers are recording the trash contamination at Atka Bay on a daily basis, and seeing if it is affecting the penguins. 

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