Editorial

Editorial: The Voiceless Victims Of Plastic Pollution; A World Of Innocent Marine Life

Plastic impacts small island nations by polluting the ocean and choking marine life, which many rely on for their livelihoods.
02 Jan 2020 13:30
Editorial: The Voiceless Victims Of Plastic Pollution; A World Of Innocent Marine Life

 

With the introduction of the new ban on single-use plastic bags by the Fijian Government from 01 January 2020, we take a look at the significance of the ban and why it is necessary for the world to ban plastics.

There is one reason that should matter to anyone who has empathy for the living creatures on this earth.

In Fiji, we have been ahead of the curve compared to a lot of other countries when it comes to climate change awareness. This is thanks to a concerted effort by the current leadership to spread awareness on climate change and the factors behind it, both locally and on the international stage.

Climate change impacts smaller island countries drastically with rising sea levels and more frequent and intense cyclones.

Likewise, plastic impacts small island nations by polluting the ocean and choking marine life, which many rely on for their livelihoods.

What often gets neglected are the effects it has on our environment beyond mere appearance. The destruction of delicate ecosystems that have flourished for millennia. The extinction of animals that predate us. The loss of life on an unprecedented scale.

We can very actively complain about how rubbish around us looks or smells bad.

What we forget are the turtles choking on plastic in oceans around the world. The seabirds that sink as they struggle to fly but get caught up in plastics.

The increasing sterility caused by microplastics too small for the naked eye to see and which we are just beginning to properly understand.

The juvenile whale that was found with 88 pounds of plastic waste inside it. An agonising death from starvation and dehydration as its belly was distended by plastic that would not breakdown.

The causes of death are different, like in this case, plastic blocks food from travelling from the stomach to the intestine, essentially starving the mammal. Other times, sharp edges poke holes in their internal organs.

As the plastic pollution crisis grows, so does the number of marine wildlife like dolphins, whales, birds, and fish found dead with their stomachs full of plastic.

Scientists estimate that around 90 per cent of all seabirds have ingested some amount of plastic and the percentage is unlikely to decrease any time soon; UNESCO estimates that 100,000 marine mammals die because of plastic pollution each year.

In most cases, the number of plastic animals ingest isn’t enough to kill them, experts say. But the effects can cascade, even if only a little bit of plastic lodges in their bellies, taking up valuable space.

“If you’re eating 10 per cent fewer calories than your neighbour, day after day, that adds up,” says Matthew Savoca, a Stanford-based whale expert who also studies plastic pollution.

“Basically, wherever we’re looking for plastics, we’re finding them. Now, we’re seeing that even in places humans never even have been close to, we find our trash. And not just that, but animals eating our trash.”

This is especially important to Fiji considering how important the ocean is to Fijian livelihood as both a source of food and income and as an attraction for tourism.

The ban on single-use plastic bags is just one step in a series of decisions we have to make if we are to be responsible stewards of this earth but it is an important one. We must be the voice for the voiceless ones who can only communicate their woe through the corpses they leave behind.

We must, as responsible citizens, take and support steps to safeguard our environment.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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