Anger and sadness over seal with coffee bottle

Wide-eyed: More than 1,500 seal pups were born at the Lincolnshire reserve last year. © Dan Thurling

Is our sea life in danger? Baby porpoises are poisoned by chemicals. A whale washes up with 100kg of litter in its stomach. Now, a seal clutches a coffee cup in a viral photograph.

What’s happening

A young seal was nestled on a riverbank in a nature reserve in Lincolnshire, UK. Clutched between the animal’s fluffy jaws was a glass Starbucks bottle.

The photograph of this seal has been shared around the world. With a click of his camera, photographer David Thurling captured the sorry state of our polluted seas.

Find out more

“We are deeply saddened by this image,” said the global coffee chain in a statement. Starbucks has now promised to help protect wildlife in the area.

However, this is just one of many similar incidents in the last week.

On Thursday, a sperm whale was found on a beach in Scotland with a 100kg “litter ball” in its stomach. Then, earlier this week, scientists revealed that baby porpoises in waters around the UK are being poisoned by powerful chemicals in their mothers’ milk.

Across the planet, eight million pieces of plastic get into the ocean every day. Plastic pollution is linked with the deaths of one million sea animals every year.

Is our sea life in danger?

Some say…

Yes. Studies show that the extent of pollution in our oceans is far worse than feared, and still growing. Plastic and chemicals have been pouring into the ocean at sharply increased rates since the 1990s. We are on the brink of an extinction crisis.

Others think…

We should be more hopeful. The UK is growing its protected Blue Belt to an area of sea twice the size of England, saving species from the short-snouted seahorse to the ocean quahog. For the first time in 50 years, seals and porpoises are thriving in the River Thames. We can save our sea life when we try!

You Decide

  1. How could you help to end plastic pollution?


  1. Choose a sea animal. Draw a poster about the animal with three interesting facts.

Some People Say...

“Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

What do you think?

Word Watch

Held closely.
A chain of coffee shops.
When toxic or poisonous substances get into something (like water or air).
Small, whale-like animals that are closely related to dolphins.
Any substance consisting of matter. This includes any liquid, solid, or gas.
How big or small something is.
When a species dies out.
Blue Belt
Covers coastlines around the UK where work is being done to look after sea life, including rare, threatened and important habitats and species.
A type of clam.


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