There is no easy way to tackle the issue of marine litter: it is complicated and has many causes, impacts and inputs. As a high percentage of marine litter comes from land based sources, EU legislation is possibly the best way to address the problem and look for solutions.
When most people think of debris in our ocean they imagine piles of garbage, floating plastic bottles, broken glass and rusting metal. All of those things, and more, are certainly part of the problem but one issue less often considered by the general public is how debris causes entanglement, injury, or death of many marine animals.
Fishing lines, nets and hooks are all serious concerns for many larger marine animals such as rays, seals, sea lions, dolphins, sharks, turtles and whales. Mantas are particularly vulnerable due to their large wingspan.
Increasing amounts of litter are ending up in the world’s oceans and harming the health of ecosystems, killing animals when they become trapped or swallow the litter. Human health is also at risk, as plastics may break down into smaller pieces that may subsequently end up in our food. These are just a few of the problems emerging from the waste collecting in our seas.
Here at Project AWARE, we like to call marine debris the “silent killer” – the trash from our everday lives that smothers ocean environments, ensnares and chokes marine species. Les Stroud, or the godfather of survival TV, is used to the silence and the sight of of debris from his professional career as the TV hit series Survivorman.
The Malaysia International Dive Expo (MIDE) this July was a fantastic opportunity to meet AWARE supporters and thank them in person for their efforts to protect the ocean. Scuba Junkie shark expert Rohan Perkins presented at MIDE to help raise awareness for sharks. Rohan received Project AWARE funding through the Ocean Action Project in 2012 so I made a special trip to visit the Scuba Junkie team and check out their conservation programs.