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Litter’s Impact On Our Marine Life
Litter’s Impact On Our Marine Life Image

The warm sand, beautiful blue water and the bright sun makes beaches the ideal getaway for many!  We are blessed with some particularly beautiful beaches right near Los Angeles.  But sadly us humans have a bigger effect on our beaches and marine life than some of us may think. Man-made environmental issues can cause long lasting and irreversible effects on our marine life.


According to Coastadapt.com, the following are the main environmental issues that are most impacting our marine life:

  1. Acidification is caused by human actions that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is later absorbed into the oceans. This chemical effect on marine life lowers the pH of ocean water to acidic levels.
  2. Warming temperatures also relates to acidification as this leads to climate change that increases the temperature of ocean water. This issue can lead to marine life becoming unable to adapt to warmer temperatures.
  3. Pollution from incorrectly disposed waste and pollutants from runoff negatively impact the health of our oceans. Polluted oceans put all marine life in jeopardy as it can be constricting and/or consumed by underwater species. 
  4. Bycatch describes a marine species that is not caught intentionally by fishmen and which can lead to population decline of multiple species. 


Although all marine life is interconnected, there are three endangered species which are currently heavily impacted by our actions above the water: 


Coral Reefs

Corals, known for their beautiful colors and protective nature, have over 20 different species that are considered threatened. Acidification reduces the amount of an important element in seawater called carbonate, which limits the corals’ ability to form dense and strong skeletons. Fishermen with unsustainable practices, oceanic pollution and climate change also affect corals and coral reefs in a negative way. Without corals, we will lose an important line of defense from waves, storms and floods that cause damage to our shorelines.



According to the World Wildlife Fund, vaquitas are the “world’s rarest sea mammal” and this unique species has less than 30 individuals left in their population. They are located in the Gulf of California and slowly reproduce once every two years. Around 15% of vaquitas end up caught in fishing nets each year, while others are endangered by man-made chlorinated pesticides used during farming practices. 


Sea Turtles

Most sea turtles are endangered by bycatching, climate change and polluted oceans from garbage and/or oil spills. The Hawksbill sea turtle is claimed to be the most endangered species of turtle in the world as its global population sits at 8,000. Known for its beautiful gold and brown shells, they are still illegally hunted to create jewelry and other items. 

Another species, named the Olive Ridley sea turtle, is the rarest and most critically endangered sea turtle in the world. Between the 1940s and 1980s, their nest population per season fell from 120,000 to 700. This species is mainly found in the Gulf of Mexico.


How can you help?

Cleaning up beaches to save these endangered species is easier than you think! Picking up pollutants, such as plastic bottles and plastic soda rings, from our beaches and streets helps make our ocean water healthier for marine life. Remember that a lot of litter left on our streets is carried by stormwater into our storm drain system and often ends up in our local oceans! 

Cleaning up your local coastline, park, street and other public places can easily become a part of your daily or weekly routine! Get inspiration from Heal the Bay’s idea for COVID-safe “decentralized cleanups” during Coastal Cleanup Month this past September and download your own clean up apps. These apps will allow you to join virtual communities that are continuously working to clean up the planet we call home. Litterati and Clean Swell are two such apps where you can record what you collect during regular socially-distant trash pickups at your favorite public places!

Every piece of litter picked up helps! Do you have any great cleanup tips from your own community? Share them with us at lastormwater@lacity.org.

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