Seychelles and Mauritius praised as low polluters


The report – called Marine Litter: A Global Challenge – says our oceans are filthier than ever, and tourists visiting many countries have had a “significant impact”.

In an illustration of the power of ocean winds and currents, the report says Seychelles has to put up with other people’s rubbish arriving during the south-east monsoon season. Garbage dumped off Western Australia, for example, ends up as far away as the east coast of South Africa.

The executive director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said the biggest single step any government can take is to ban the manufacture of supermarket-style plastic bags.

These bags and plastic bottles comprise most of the plastic refuse which, in turn, is by far the most pervasive type of marine litter around the world, according to the 233-page report.

Smokers are also identified as being huge contributors to marine-borne garbage, tossing away butts and cigarette wrappers that account for 40% of the rubbish in the Mediterranean and more than half off the coast of Ecuador.

Drawn up with the Ocean Conservancy advocacy group, the report aimed to take stock of water-borne garbage in 12 major seas. It says that, despite international and localised protection measures, “alarming quantities of rubbish” thrown out to sea continue to pose safety and health threats to people and wildlife.

The rubbish also damages nautical equipment and adversely affects tourism by defacing coastal areas.
“Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise, namely the wasteful use of natural resources,” said Mr Steiner.

“Some of the litter, like thin-film, single-use plastic bags that choke marine life, should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere (because) there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.”

The report was released to coincide with the UN’s first official recognition of World Oceans Day last Monday.
It recommends that governments increase public and business awareness of the effects of littering in or near the sea – and selectively impose fines on those who do not listen.

“This report is a reminder that carelessness and indifference are proving deadly for our oceans and their inhabitants,” said Philippe Cousteau, chief executive of EarthEcho International and an Ocean Conservancy board member.

The report says fines would work as a deterrent if they are as large as the $500,000 the United States imposed in 1993 on the cruise ship Regal Princess for dumping 20 bags of rubbish into the sea.
The effect of litter on fisheries was highlighted in the report with reference to the Shetland Isles, north of the UK mainland.

Some 92% of Shetland fishermen reported, for example, recurring problems with debris in nets. Estimates suggest each boat could lose between $10,500 and $53,300 a year because of the presence of marine litter, the report says.

In South Asia, the growing shipbreaking industry has become a major source of marine debris, the report said. Hazardous wastes, meanwhile, enter the western Indian Ocean, South Asian seas and the Black Sea because of poor solid-waste management in the seaboard states.

Part of the problem is that a number of ports discourage ships from returning with their galley waste, leading to offshore disposal, the report says. In East Asian seas, for example, fees are charged.

The marine litter problem is predicted to increase profoundly off China and other parts of East Asia, where 60% of the 1.8 billion people in the region live in coastal areas.

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