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Act now or oceans may contain more plastic than fish

13 May 2017 12:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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With so much confusion if not chaos compounded by contradictory statements – the latest being on the sacking of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – it seems that the United States President Donald Trump is emerging as the notorious “Ugly American”.   


Already the people of Mt Lavinia and Ratmalana are having problems with sea erosion and if the climatologists are right, the sea beach could be around Bolgoda Lake by 2030. But President Trump and even his newly-appointed Environment Protection Agency Director are denying the scientific evidence of climate change and even threatening to pull out of the historic Climate Change Accord signed by more than 190 countries at Paris in December 2015.   


Whatever Mr. Trump may do or say, with some Congress members even hinting of possible impeachment proceedings in the coming months, the US leader seems to be ignorant or unwilling to accept realities. For instance, there is substantial scientific evidence that the oceans may soon contain more plastic than fish. According to alternative medicine proponent Dr. Joseph Mercola, an activist in the battle against climate change, staggering amounts of plastic waste from water bottles and plastic bags to tiny microbeads and microfibers, are entering oceans, rivers and other waterways.   
In 2015, researchers calculated that 275 million metric tons of plastic waste were generated in 192 coastal countries, with anywhere from five million to nearly thirteen million metric tons of it entering the ocean. Worse still, they estimated that unless waste management practices are  
 improved, the amount of plastic entering oceans by 2025 may double.   According to the research, mismanaged waste is particularly severe in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines which together make up the top five countries for plastic pollution.    In the US, one of the top waste-generating countries, littering is a major issue, especially in the form of single-use plastics, such as soda bottles, drinking straws and potato chip bags.   According to the environmental advocacy group, Ocean Conservancy, some plastic products persist for so long, even in salty ocean water, that they’ll still be recognizable after 400 years.   


 It states that, “the amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean – known as plastic – waste leakage – has reached crisis levels and has caused significant economic and environmental damage”. Some 80 per cent of ocean plastic comes from land. Fisheries, fishing vessels and other ships contribute less than 20 per cent of plastic debris in the oceans. The rest, more than 80 per cent, starts off on land. Once in the ocean, it’s known that nearly 700 species – and probably many more are negatively impacted by such debris. Sadly, at least 17 per  cent of impacted species are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as near threatened or worse, and at least 10 per cent of the species had ingested micro plastics.   


A marine policy study has revealed that ingestion and entanglement from litter poses the biggest threat to marine life more than chemical contamination. Plastic bags, balloons and utensils are particularly dangerous as sea birds, turtles and marine mammals commonly mistake them for food. That being said, micro plastics which are less than 5 millimetres in diameter, are also consumed by marine life, with unknown consequences.   


Anne Marie Mahon who has a doctorate from the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland says, “we know that there are in the human food chain because they are in fish. We know that plastics contain endocrine disruptors, which can be carcinogenic, so yeah, this is really of concern”. Some 90 per cent of micro plastics channelled through the waste water treatment system is ending up in the sewage sludge and 10 per cent is still going out in our treated water, which then goes back into our rivers and our lakes. We actually apply our sewerage sludge mostly to agricultural land for tillage and we don’t know or understand what happens to it after that.   


In Sri Lanka for decades we have been promoting tourism with the sun and seashore being one of the main attractions. We now need to give priority to the education of foreign and local holiday makers that they need to be eco friendly. Any and all the plastic or polythene they bring needs to be taken away from the seashore and disposed off elsewhere.     

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  • Sri Lankan Saturday, 13 May 2017 09:03 AM

    We can start blaming Trump for the droughts, no!!!?


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