Twitter Helps Researchers Log the Effects of Plastic Pollution on Sharks

Twitter Helps Researchers Log the Effects of Plastic Pollution on Sharks

Social media is proving to be a useful tool for scientists, and not just for observing the downfall of society in real-time.

The University of Exeter, using Twitter as its source of data, has discovered that over 1000 sharks are being “starved and suffocated” after getting caught up in plastic and fishing nets. Concerned that such instances were flying “under the radar” when compared to issues like over-fishing that get tend to get more coverage, Twitter reports were combined with research that’s already out there to essentially crowdsource the data.

Using this method, researchers found 1116 reports of the fish getting tangle up in fishing fear and plastic, including whale sharks, great whites, tiger sharks and basking sharks. This is compared to a big fat zero reports cropping up in published studies, leading them to conclude that “entanglement is more than likely impacting a significantly greater number of species on a vastly larger scale than this review has presented.”

While they state that this is a “far lesser threat” to marine animals than over-fishing, they highlight that it’s still a “major animal welfare concern.”

Co-author of the study Professor Brendan Godley, co-ordinator of Exeter University’s marine strategy, said, “Our study was the first to use Twitter to gather such data, and our results from the social media site revealed entanglements of species – and in places – not recorded in the academic papers.”

The study suggests a “citizen science platform” be set up to help crowdsource reports going forward. [Sky News]