Plastic pollution is taking over the world – it’s filling up the oceans, it's in the stomach of most seabirds, and it’s even in the world’s deepest underwater trench. As this stunningly sad photograph shows, even the majestic creatures of the Arctic circle are not immune to the problem.
French photographer Fabrice Guerin captured this heart-wrenching image while visiting the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. Keeping a safe distance on a nearby boat, Guerin and his guide were attempting to follow and snap the polar bear while it hunted.
However, the bear had no such luck. Instead, it began to curiously pick up a plastic bag with its jaws and paws.
“We were surprised to see this magnificent animal had a plastic bag in his mouth! Fortunately, he didn’t swallow it whole,” Guerin told Caters News Agency.“I never thought to see some plastic in this area but I do know there is no frontier for plastic waste."
“The global production of plastic rises every year and we discover bottles and plastic bags mostly everywhere," he added. "Most of this waste is not biodegradable, and a lot of animals like turtles, birds, and sperm whales swallow them.”
As you can imagine, animals aren’t always as lucky as this polar bear. Earlier this year, in June, marine biologists found a stranded pilot whale in Thailand that had over 80 plastic bags in its stomach.
The scale of the world’s plastic problem is only just coming to light among the public. Fortunately, the tide is quickly changing. The past couple of years have seen countries across the world picking up legislation geared towards cutting the globe’s plastic accumulation. For example, the UK imposed a highly-success plastic bag tax in 2015 and India became the latest nation to announce that it will ban all single-use plastics by 2022.
However, as photographs such as this show, there’s still a long way to go.