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Coastal marine life threatened by plastic waste
July 9, 2016, 4:44 pm

The rise of plastics in shallow sea waters does not bode well for marine life along coastal countries, including all the GCC states, because micro-plastics are mistaken for food by small fish still in development, says a new scientific study.

The study by Uppsala University in Sweden revealed that larval perch which had access to micro-plastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton. “Small fish prefer to eat the plastic and gorge themselves on tiny plastic pieces smaller than five millimeters resulting in ‘changed behaviors and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates’, the study authors said.

Micro-plastics are found in high concentrations in shallow coastal areas posing risk for marine creatures. Micro-beads, for example, are found in high concentrations in everything from toothpaste, laundry detergent and personal care products and are washed down the drain, ending up in water environments. In a statement, the university said that for “the first time, scientists have now been able to show that development of fish is threatened by micro-plastic pollution”.

In a latest study by Jenna Jambeck, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, it was estimated that eight million metric tonnes of plastic are entering the world’s oceans annually.

“We calculate that 275 million metric tonnes (MT) of plastic waste were generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean,” the study stated. Jambeck said the eight million MT estimate equates to 15 grocery bags filled with plastic for every meter of coastline stretched around the world.

Divers in many GCC states have confirmed that plastics witnessed in recent dives in local waters pose deadly hazards for fish and sea turtles that ingest the pollution believing the debris to be food. Environmental organizations and divers’ association in GCC countries have spearheaded various awareness campaigns among the public and in schools, as well as conducted underwater clean-up drives of coastal areas to regularly remove plastics and other garbage from the sea-floor.

At a recent Federal National Council meeting in the UAE, it was noted that the country uses over 11 billion plastic bags annually; this comes despite ambitious measures by Dubai Municipality and the federal government to slash consumption in the millions.

Dr. Thani Bin Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said that the ongoing issue of plastic waste is a top priority under current study. “The ministry has done so many activities in the last seven years. We came up with several ministerial decrees,” Al Zeyoudi said in an interview. “We’re going to have more attention on the topic. We’re going to activate those decrees.”

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