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
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.