According to a report published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, an estimated 5,70,000 hermit crabs die after climbing into plastic debris confusing it for empty shells every year. Hermit crabs do not have shells of their own and use empty shells or hollow objects as protection. The empty plastic container and bottles on the beach create a trap for hermit crabs searching for food or water that may be found in the containers.
The study named “Entrapment in plastic debris endangers hermit crabs” was led by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania. Dr Jennifer Lavers, who lead the study told the international media that when they were surveying debris on the islands, he was struck by how many open plastic containers contained hermit crabs, both dead and alive. The study which is considered to be the first study quantifying the population impacts caused by plastics on any species estimated that about 5,08,000 of the crustaceans have been killed in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean and about 61,000 on Henderson Island in the Pacific after getting stuck in debris such as plastic bottles.
After the crabs enter these slippery vessels, it's impossible for them to escape eventually leading to their death. Once they are dead, these crabs emit a smell to tell others that the shell is available, unknowingly luring more creatures to their untimely deaths. This has created a gruesome chain reaction. A loss in the numbers of hermit crabs affects more than just the health of tropical environments. These creatures also play a crucial role in the economic facets of marine ecosystems that humans rely on for fishing, recreation and tourism. Marine pollution has become a serious issue in the recent past. Earlier this week, a dead sperm whale was found on an island of Scotland with a 100 kg litter ball in its stomach filled with plastic debris, fishing nets, and other pollutants.