Plastic ocean waste caused the death of hundreds of thousands of hermit crabs on the Pacific and Indian Ocean islands. Scientists are worried that this tragedy is only the beginning of a global cascading effect that may occur.

The research was conducted by scientists from University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), and the Natural History Museum in London and the community science group Two Hands Project.

Half-Million Dead

Scientists counted 570,000 dead hermit crabs, of which 508,000 were found on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, and 61,000 on Henderson Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists believe that the death was caused by preventing crabs from coming out of the openings of the boxes. The shells were probably clogged with piles of plastic debris. Others were stuck in plastic containers.

The study groups found plastic containers on beaches filled with dead and live crabs.

Jennifer Lavers of the IMAS said:

“We decided to conduct further surveys in a number of locations about how many containers were there, including how many were open, how many were in a position that could probably catch crabs, and how many contained crabs.”

“These results are shocking, but perhaps not surprising, as the beaches and vegetation that surround them are visited by a wide variety of wildlife, ” Lavers added.

Ocean Landfill

The Cocos Islands became a landfill of 414 million pieces of plastic, including 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes.

“These islands are like canaries in a coal mine, and it’s increasingly urgent to act on the warnings they give us. Plastic pollution is now ubiquitous in our oceans, and remote islands are an ideal place to get an objective view of the volume of plastic waste that is now circulating around the world,” Lavers said.

Death Trap

Crabs communicate with each other, emitting chemical signals to tell other crabs that they have found suitable shells, and thus attract other inhabitants of the sea to the death trap.

Hermit crabs are not the only wildlife exposed to harsh conditions due to ocean waste. Many reports and photographs of stranded and injured animals are proof of this.

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