PACEWS – “IT starts with you,” those were the words from Afroz Shah, the UN Environment 2016 Champion of the Earth Award for Inspiration and Action, as he addressed the opening of the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) in San Diego this week.
Each year at least eight million pieces of plastic makes its way into the ocean.
We now have over 51 trillion pieces of microplastic in the ocean, and it’s estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than there are fish.
It’s a concern for the Pacific islands, whose largest resource is the ocean.
Members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) manage over 10 percent of the world’s ocean in their Exclusive Economic Zones.
“You and I have to take the steps, baby steps to stop use of single use plastic to address this,” said Shah.
“We are born capable and we are born fearless.
We all need to start that personal journey, from the food you eat, packaging you use and the after effects of that garbage.
“It’s a change in the heart and mind.
“The day you start feeling this ocean is mine as is your family, your friends, your home, your car, you will feel this change in you.”
Shah mobilised action and large scale support to remove over 12 million kilos of waste from Versova Beach in Mumbai, India.
He first started in October, 2015 by collecting five bags of rubbish on the beach after being discouraged that he couldn’t access a beach he grew up on due to over five feet of plastic debris covering the beach.
“I told myself that day that this journey is going to be a lifelong one.”
While the Pacific island region does not have the same challenges as that of Versova Beach in Mumbai, the Pacific islands are not immune.
In 2017, the Ocean Conservancy recorded 43 volunteers during International Coastal Clean Up day that collected over 2,000 kilos of waste from a 1.8 kilometre stretch along the coast.
This was 5,971 pieces collected.
Several unusual pieces of waste were also found in the Pacific island region during the 2017 International Coastal Clean Up, with a bucket of nails found in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and a slide found in Guam.
Marine litter harms over 600 marine species, this alone should raise alarm for the Pacific region with 75% of the world’s tuna landings coming from Pacific waters and 47% of Pacific households list fishing as either a primary or secondary source of income.
National fish consumption in our island region is three to four times the global average.
The 6IMDC hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and UN Environment brings together over 700 delegates from across 50 countries to assess progress of the global framework to prevent and manage marine debris, also known as the Honolulu Strategy, which was developed at the last IMDC in 2011.
The conference is also the opportunity to celebrate and encourage further global innovation, collaboration and action to minimise the impacts of marine debris.
“We all need to make this issue a priority, marine debris is going to make a huge impact upon our Pacific way of life as we know it given the integral role our ocean plays in our lives,” said Anthony Talouli, the Marine Pollution Adviser of SPREP.
“While we are working to support our Pacific islands to ensure the legal and national frameworks are in place as our Pacific islands make crucial changes in legislation to ban single use plastics, it all does start with us and our choices.
“Not only must we keep our ocean clean but we ourselves must make the right choices so our ocean stays clean.”
The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference is held in San Diego from 12 to 16 March, 2018. The event spans ten tracks, those being – Monitoring and Citizen Science; Research and Microplastics/Microfibres; Prevention; Private Sector Collaboration, Technology and Innovation; Education and Communication; Implementing Effective Law, Regulations and Policy, Removal, Single-Use Product Policies, Regulations and Laws; Derelict Fishing Gear and Innovative Case Studies from Around the World.
– Source: PACNEWS