Marine litter, and in particular plastic pollution, poses a vast and growing threat to the marine and coastal environment and wildlife, including those of The Sanctuary.
A few marine litter statistics put this global problem in perspective. It is estimated that:
- Around 8 million items enter the marine environment daily.
- 70% ends on the sea bed, 15% on beaches and the remainder floats on the surface.
- 80% of marine debris is from land based sources 20% from sea based.
- Three times as much rubbish is dumped as the weight of fish caught.
- Around 7 billion tonnes of plastic litter enter the ocean every year.
- There are over 13, 000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of ocean and this figure continues to grow.
- Plastics make up about 60% of marine debris, with an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles killed by plastic litter every year around the world.
- Plastic bags on the ocean floor take 10-20 years to decompose and plastic bottles take much longer. Because of this, one piece of plastic can kill more than one animal. An animal killed by swallowing plastic will decompose long before the plastic does, leaving the plastic free to kill again.
The Sanctuary’s offshore waters are known to harbour and feed large numbers of critically endangered leatherback turtles, rare whale sharks, giant manta rays and other mega fauna that are often particularly vulnerable to the impacts of marine pollution. Marine birds also often fall prey to plastic pollution. Apart from the direct primary ecological impacts, marine pollution also severely and negatively influences the beach experience for holiday makers, especially on The Sanctuary’s eastern shores. Part of our protection efforts, a programme called ‘clean our beaches’, was launched in March 2017 where The Sanctuary’s beaches along the eastern shore are now being cleaned on a two week cycle.
Four people from our local communities have been employed to collect rubbish /marine litter, pack it in bags and transport it to the ‘mainland’ of The Sanctuary, from where our waste management team takes care of it. Please see photos below.
Complimenting this programme, and following the lead of other marine management authorities, The Sanctuary’s Conservation Committee is looking into various types of products in use on The Sanctuary to determine if there are “greener” alternative options. It is also looking into any other ways of addressing pollution and reducing our carbon footprint.
Some owners have already expressed an interest in being part of this programme, and we would really appreciate if those interested in assisting would contact us again in order to make our own programme as effective as possible and also to become part of the solution to this global challenge.