Turtle with Net Francis Perez World-Press-Photo-awards2017, Powerful Images of Plastic PollutionCreatives have been paying attention to the plight of the ocean and thanks to their keen observations and social media influence, these photos and videos have shone bright lights on the magnitude of the plastic pollution problem. By having their images go viral, these ocean changemakers have contributed to the global momentum to stop single use plastic and encourage conscious and sustainable consumerism. So take a tour and see what makes these videos and powerful images of plastic pollution so impactful. (photo – Francis Periz)


Sea Turtle vs. Plastic Straw

It is not hard to pick the single video that caught the attention of the largest audience and created the widest stir. One video in particular went ultra-viral receiving nearly forty million views. Christine Figgener, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University and Blue Ocean contributor was conducting research off the Costa Rican coast when she noticed an Olive Ridley sea turtle with what appeared to be a parasitic worm growing from its nose. Upon closer examination the worm turned out to be a plastic straw completely embedded in the turtle’s nostril. After 20 tortuous minutes the six inch plastic straw was removed and the turtle was returned to the ocean.

What was it? Maybe the distress of witnessing an animal in such pain or subconsciously knowing that it could have been our straw.  We’ll never know. The important thing is that the video went viral and gave birth to the “no straw” movement, resulting in plastic straws being removed from drinks in restaurants, bars and resorts around the globe, find our more in: Sea Turtle vs Straw: An Eco Movement goes Viral.

While viewing this video on YouTube you can also find the plastic fork that was removed from the nostril of another Olive Ridley sea turtle. a video that was viewed over six million times. Or watch the video showing strands of a plastic fishing net being removed from the mouth of a Caretta Caretta sea turtle in Greece that was viewed almost 700,000 times. Unfortunately, it seems like there is no lack of videos on marine life impacted by plastic ocean debris.


Ghost Gear Haunts

Ghost gear, lost or discarded by the fishing industry is the cause of many horrendous entanglements with marine life. On our Homepage, we featured a video from the Smithsonian Channel of an enormous whale shark ensnared by a commercial fishing line that was slowly cutting into its body. Taking less than 60 seconds, a diver cut the lines and set the shark free in a dramatic moment near Socorro Island off Baja California, Mexico in a video that received over 4 million views.


Turtle with Net Francis Perez World-Press-Photo-awards2017, Powerful Images of Plastic PollutionTurtle Entangled in  Fishing Net

A heartbreaking image of a sea turtle valiantly struggling to free itself from a cocoon of fishing gear won first prize in the 2017 World Press Photo, Nature awards. Shot off the Canary islands, Francis Periz’s image of a sea turtle entangled in ghost gear is an iconic symbol, representing marine wildlife’s struggle to be freed from the deadly embrace of plastic ocean debris.


justin hofman, seahorse on plastic straw sewage surfer interaction -3 powerful images of plastic pollution

Sewage Surfer

When Justin Hoffman was snorkeling in Indonesia last year he spotted a tiny seahorse riding a pink plastic swab. Hoffman captured the image and then entered it into London’s Natural History WildLife Photographer of the Year competition.

The image became a finalist and has now gone viral being shared by news outlets around the world. See the entire article: “Sewage Surfer” says a lot about Ocean Health



Penguins Living on a Plastic Island

This was a very recent video that caught our attention because it may be an ominous foretelling of the future, more than we wish to acknowledge. A frozen island composed completely of plastic debris floating in the cold, southern Pacific, is now home to a colony of Gentoo penguins. It’s an image that asks, Is this the future? And how far does our wasteful plastic habit travel? Read our entire article: Penguins Living on a Plastic Island, Is This the Future?


Albatross Chick

chrisjordan, albatross with plastic in stomach, dead, seabird, pollution, waste, garbage, ocean, pacific , graphic, Powerful Images of Plastic PollutionAn iconic image and related video by Chris Jordan shows the inevitable result of sea birds ingesting plastic debris, as food and in many cases feeding it to their chicks. There is a similar scene in Sir David Attenborough’s Series Blue Planet II in which he is almost brought to tears over seeing a mother feeding her chick plastic “tidbits” that she thinks are food.

Chris Jordan filmed on Midway island and captured the death throes of many seabirds and their chicks suffocating or starving from ingested plastic.


Bali Low

A recent video has focused worldwide attention on the huge mess that plastic pollution makes in our oceans and on our beaches. David Horner was videotaping while diving off the island of Nusa Penida, about 20k off the popular resort island of Bali in Indonesia, when he was engulfed by a sea of floating plastic debris. Intending to film manta rays Horner found the plastic at times to be almost impenetrable, but his video went viral with thousands of views and captured a new and disturbing perspective on the plastic pollution in our ocean. See our article: Bali Low: Is this our New Definition of Paradise?


Floating Island of Plastic in the Caribbean

Five giant, rotating islands of plastic are known to exist in the North and South Pacific; the Indian Ocean and the North and South Atlantic. Now it seems that there is another and this one is much closer. “Called the Floating Island of Roatan” it collects debris from Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Caribbean Islands. This “island” is much smaller than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but is this a forewarning of a developing, sixth gyre of floating plastic waste?


Kayaking the World’s Most Polluted River

The next is not a single video or image, it is a series of video blogs documenting a kayaking trip down the Citarum River in Indonesia. Choked with plastic debris and industrial and human waste, many experts consider the Citarum to be the world’s most polluted river. But this did not deter Gary and Sam Bencheghib, two brothers that grew up in Bali and were galvanized by the ocean pollution they saw, to raise the alarm and take action. First they organized beach clean-ups on Bali’s famous beaches (something that continues) and then they tackled the most serious pollution problem in the country.

Their videos of kayaking the Citarum went viral causing an international uproar and forced the Indonesian government to promise to take action to curb pollution. Read about their inspiring story in our article: Kayaking the World’s Most Polluted River!

The videos and powerful images of plastic pollution that we have shared here, are just a bit of the awesome work done by ocean conscious, environmentally aware creatives. They are leading the way, producing stories that are compelling and cannot be ignored. They deserve a round of applause and our support. Blue Ocean will continue to bring new videos, images and inspiring stories to you and keep you updated on what challenges these creatives will face down next.

By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network


See These Related Blue Ocean Articles:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Plastic Pollution
Can We Save Paradise From Being Destroyed?
Can Mass Tourism be Sustainable? Part 2, The Riviera Maya: Geology and Pollution
Life Beyond Plastic: Could the EU ban all single use plastic? And what about Legos?
Ocean Plastic Will Triple by 2025, plus Adidas running on plastic from the sea
The real Cost of Your Next Pair of Jeans
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Taking Out the Trash
Life Beyond Plastics: How Fashion is Killing Our Rivers