Times of Oman

Oman’s de­ci­sion to join clean seas drive wel­comed

So far, 40 coun­tries have signed up for the cam­paign, and Oman, along­side Chile, Sri Lanka and South Africa, are the lat­est to join this global ef­fort

- GAUTAM VISWANATHA­N Ecology · Oman · Muscat · United Nations Environment Programme · United Nations · Chile · Sri Lanka · South Africa · Africa · Iceland · Austria · Middle East · Indian Ocean · Belarus · Morocco · Tunisia · Sultan Qaboos University

MUS­CAT: Ma­rine bi­ol­o­gists and wa­ter re­searchers in Oman have hailed the Sul­tanate’s de­ci­sion to join the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme’s Clean Seas cam­paign, which aims to make the world’s oceans lit­ter free.

So far, 40 coun­tries have signed up for the cam­paign, and Oman, along­side Chile, Sri Lanka and South Africa, are the lat­est to join this global col­lab­o­ra­tion, which in­cludes mea­sures such as ban­ning plas­tic bag, new ma­rine re­serves and drives to in­crease re­cy­cling.

Dr Jauad El Khar­raz is head of re­search at the Mid­dle East De­sali­na­tion Re­search Cen­ter (MEDRC) and is well-versed in the im­por­tance of keep­ing the oceans clean. “This is good news, be­cause, for Oman, which has such a long coast­line on the In­dian Ocean and Sea of Oman, it is im­por­tant to do this with com­mit­ment, along­side the ef­forts be­ing made by other coun­tries, and see how we can prob­a­bly de­velop joint ac­tiv­i­ties to clean the ocean and pro­tect some ar­eas, es­pe­cially those which are close to the coast of Oman,” he told Times of Oman.

“This is a good move for­ward by the au­thor­i­ties, and I be­lieve all coun­tries should com­mit to this in­ter­na­tional move­ment to see how we can re­duce pol­lu­tion in the ocean. “A lot of in­ter­na­tional re­ports on the state of the world’s oceans were alarm­ing, be­cause this showed peo­ple the dam­age plas­tics and other pol­lu­tants could cause to the oceans,” added El Khar­raz.

“They come from var­i­ous in­dus­tries, and they do not just harm fish and the ecosys­tem, but they also dam­age many other sec­tors, such as de­sali­na­tion plants. The plants get their in­take from sea­wa­ter, and this is then con­verted into fresh­wa­ter, but if this in­take is pol­luted with plas­tics and other mat­ter, it may get more com­pli­cated and more ex­pen­sive.”

Ban on plas­tics

El Khar­raz hoped Oman would fol­low in the foot­steps of other na­tions and en­force a ban on plas­tic bags.

“It is im­por­tant to stop pol­lu­tion at the source, and last year, many Arab coun­tries such as Morocco and Tu­nisia ac­tu­ally banned the use of plas­tic bags,” he ex­plained. “Such ac­tions are very im­por­tant, and many na­tions must fol­low this ex­am­ple. The plas­tic bags that we use for shop­ping of­ten end up in the sea and fish eat th­ese bags, which end up in their stom­ach, and those then end up in our stom­ach be­cause we eat th­ese fish.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we hear of many sit­u­a­tions where sharks and tur­tles have died be­cause they have eaten plas­tic, so not only do we need to clean the ocean, but we need to have reg­u­la­tions and leg­is­la­tion, pun­ish the pol­luters, and also take sim­ple mea­sures that have big im­pact,” stressed El Khar­raz. “Ban­ning plas­tic bags is a good step go­ing for­ward.”

His opin­ion was echoed by Dr Hus­sain Al Mas­roori, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Sul­tan Qa­boos Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Agri­cul­tural and Ma­rine Sciences.

“The big­gest source of pol­lu­tion that harms ma­rine wel­fare is ac­tu­ally the de­graded and aban­doned fish­ing gear,” he re­vealed. “This causes pol­lu­tion in the sea and in­creases the mor­tal­ity of fish and ma­rine mam­mals. Some of this gear stay afloat on the wa­ter, where they are some­times eaten by fish and ma­rine mam­mals such as tur­tles and dol­phins. Other gear sink to the bot­tom of the sea, where they get en­tan­gled with co­ral reefs, and also harm de­m­er­sal fish that swim or feed near the bot­tom of the ocean.

“For ex­am­ple, tur­tles eat jel­ly­fish, but float­ing ma­te­rial such as plas­tic bags ac­tu­ally look like jel­ly­fish, and tur­tles will go and hunt th­ese down and eat them, thus eat­ing th­ese bags,” ob­served Al Mas­roori. “We also have fish who eat th­ese toxic ma­te­ri­als, and then we eat th­ese fish, so in the end, this is re­ally harm­ful for us.”

He also stressed the need for stronger com­mu­nity aware­ness pro­grammes, so that res­i­dents in Oman would un­der­stand the value of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

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CLEAN CAM­PAIGN: The aim of the drive is to make the world’s oceans lit­ter free.
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