The silent stran­gle­hold on marine life

mailife - - Environment - By SARAH CAMP­BELL & GAIA SEGANTIN pho­tos by MAQEREQETI VITI

You see them every­where, tis­sue thin scraps of fad­ing colour, float­ing and blow­ing about the land­scape. As global com­mer­cial­ism has risen, so too has the con­sump­tion of sin­gle-use poly­thene bags. Fiji is no ex­cep­tion to this world­wide phe­nom­e­non that has a stran­gle­hold on the planet’s en­vi­ron­ment, de­spite ef­forts to clean up our coun­try and in­ter­na­tional reg­u­la­tions such as the Law of the Sea. Rub­bish clear­ing projects by marine con­ser­va­tion char­i­ties such as the Ma­manuca En­vi­ron­ment So­ci­ety help save the ocean’s crea­tures as well as con­serve the nat­u­ral beauty of our beaches. But they can­not keep pace with the amount of rub­bish is churned out ev­ery day on Fiji’s main is­lands. As the soft coral cap­i­tal of the world, Fiji’s reefs sus­tain a vast num­ber of marine species, many of which are en­dan­gered. Plas­tic, and plas­tic bags in par­tic­u­lar, has a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on sea crea­tures, in­clud­ing tur­tles and fish. Crea­tures be­come trapped by the plas­tic bags or mis­take them for food and choke to death. Coral reefs are dam­aged, pol­luted and poi­soned as the bags, plas­tic pieces and other rub­bish de­cay. Plas­tic bags are chem­i­cally treated to de­cay into small frag­ments in the ocean, which ac­tu­ally cre­ates a deadly cy­cle. Small fish are able to eat the tiny par­ti­cles of plas­tic and are in turn eaten by larger predators. The small pieces of plas­tic don’t digest and con­tinue ac­cu­mu­late in the big­ger and big­ger crea­tures up the food chain. The plas­tic poi­sons that con­tam­i­nate the big­ger fish such as tuna can then poi­son peo­ple when they eat the fish. Plas­tic may get dumped on land, but even­tu­ally gets washed into the sea by storms, drains and rivers. Tiny par­ti­cles of de­cayed plas­tic can re­main swill­ing about in the ocean for up to 1000 years. Many peo­ple don’t un­der­stand this well enough ap­pre­ci­ate the dan­gers of plas­tic rub­bish. Plas­tic bags can’t be re­cy­cled, even though they might be re-used a few times by householders. Pre­vent­ing them from en­ter­ing our en­vi­ron­ment and our oceans is by far the most work­able op­tion and the most straight­for­ward and ef­fec­tive

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