In our last blog post, “Making a Difference”, we talked about our role as responsible scuba divers and how we can make a difference for our oceans each day and with every dive.
Along with climate change, plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to marine environments. Countless species are harmed or even killed by entanglement or consumption of plastic debris every day. Toxic chemicals released by plastics reduce water quality and microplastics ingested by small fish large filter feeders eventually end up on our own plates. In fact, some experts predict that there will be more plastic than fish in our world’s oceans by 2050!
Yet, getting rid of all the plastics in our life seems like an (almost) impossible task, even for those of us who are well aware of the hazards it causes both to marine species and ourselves. Throughout the last decades, we have become increasingly dependent on plastic products – it’s almost like we’re the ones that are trapped.
At this point, it’s important to remember that not all plastics are the same. Durable polymeric materials play an important role is most aspects of our lives, from transportation to medical applications to common household items. The “bad” plastics we are mostly referring to are single use plastics, which are often carelessly discarded after they have fulfilled their purpose. These include plastic bags, bottles, cups, cutlery, and straws, among others.
However, focusing all of our attention on banning plastic straws would only target a small portion of our pollution problem. A major (and often overlooked) share of waste in our oceans actually comes from abandoned fishing nets, also called ghost nets. They make up almost half of all the plastic waste found, compared to the 0.3 % contributed by straws. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our consumption patterns may be the biggest issue; we produce more than 8 billion tons of plastic waste every year. Only 9% of this amount is recycled, while about 40% makes its way into the ocean.
What can we do?
Most single-use plastics are unnecessary and easily replaced by reusable steel, wood, glass or cloth materials. You can always refuse straws or plastic bags in restaurants or stores and come prepared with your own bag. Most food delivery services will have a comment or feedback section, where you can suggest to reduce their packaging or leave out certain items like straws and sauce packages from your order. Numerous national and local governments around the world have even certain banned single-use plastics or are in the process of doing so. Here in Puducherry, such a ban has been enforced in the beginning of this month.
Tackling the ghost net problem, on the other hand, is not quite as easy. Even if unsustainable fishing practices were prohibited or limited, it would be quite difficult to enforce these rules effectively. After all, local fishermen have to make a living, and as long as the demand is there, they will provide to the market. Thus, we all have an important role to play as consumers. We can actively avoid products that were produced irresponsibly and instead support businesses that engage in sustainable fishing practices.
Last but not least, each and every one of us can make an effort to consume less, produce smaller amounts waste, and recycle more. Let’s encourage our family, friends, and colleagues to do the same and free ourselves and future generations from the plastic trap!
These pictures used in this post are featuring TRF & Temple Adventures team members during our conservation photo shoot.
Watch out for our next blog about Artificial Reefs and Sustainable Fishing!
Do you consider yourself an Ocean Warrior as well? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
If you would like to learn more about topics such as conservation, dive against debris, or artificial reef building, feel free to send us a message here or come by Temple Adventures Dive Center for a chat any time.