Plastics are hazardous to marine life, killing millions of aquatic species

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources said records show that plastics are hazardous to the marine life, killing more than a million birds, turtles, whales, and an immense number of fish in the oceans.

Speaking at the commemoration of International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICCD) in the Kombo South coastal village of Tanji, Lamin Dibba said consequently, ICCD is an opportunity to get out to the beaches and participate in addressing the problem by cleaning up the waste that has been either washed up on shore or have been left by visitors on a daily basis.

The day which is celebrated on the third Saturday of every September, has been observed in different forms and activities including radio talk shows to create awareness, focus group discussions with coastal communities and beach cleansing exercise of the coastline from Kartong, Gunjur, Tanji, Senegambia stretch, Banjul to Barra.

Minister Dibba said huge amount of marine species get entangled and eventually killed by plastic waste which are land base source. He called for a change of attitude towards plastic usage in particular and the environment in general.

The National Environment Agency (NEA)-led crusade in cleansing and awareness creation services didn`t stopped on the coastlines, but were observed in the hinterlands in respect of the day.

Addressing volunteers, fisher folk and members of the local communities, Minister Dibba told them that they are part of millions of volunteers around the world who have decided to save the lives of not only humans but marine species through keeping the beaches free of litter and other pollutants. He maintained that the day is one of the solutions to get rid of litter on the beaches, and they should endeavor to take responsibility of keeping the environment clean particularly the beaches.

“The bay could be healed through our efforts in removing all trash from the beach, he warned, noting that pollution in wasters knows no boundary in rendering its catastrophic impacts.

He reminded the people that the main purpose of the cleanup exercise by the Ocean Conservancy in 1986 is not different from today’s purpose which is to remove debris from water bodies including the coastline and beaches, collect valuable information about debris and types of waste collected, increase public awareness on the effects of litter and debris on the aquatic ecosystem, make positive changes and to promote waste prevention efforts around the coastal environment.

He said that was why the National Environmental Agency and stakeholders commemorate the day in the form of beach cleaning. He registered his optimism that efforts of volunteers at all the sites will benefit not The Gambia alone but the entire world.

He thanked the EU Delegation to The Gambia, Karpowership Company, ATLAST Energy, JOC and Civil Society Organizations for the support they provided towards the successful commemoration of ICCD.      

European Union Ambassador and head of the EU Delegation, Attila LAJOS said the EU Delegation is delighted to take part for the second year running, and to be partnering with the National Environment Agency and other government agencies, local communities and NGOs in ICCD.

Reiterating the importance of the day, Mr Lajos said around 80% of marine litter is composed of plastic, saying from the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, plastic impact nearly 700 species in the ocean. “You’ve probably seen pictures of these impacts first hand, like a sea turtle with a plastic straw embedded in its nose or a wale entangled in a fishing net, approaching divers that release it from harm. Some of these incidents have happy endings, but in reality, many more do not because when animals ingest plastic, it can cause life-threatening problems, including reduced fitness, nutrient uptake and feeding efficiency, which are all vital for survival,” he said.

He also warns that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean on top of the estimated 150 million tons that currently circulate the marine environments. “Whether by errant plastic bags or plastic straws winding their way into gutters or large amounts of mismanaged plastic waste streaming from rapidly growing economies, that’s like dumping one garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year! And that much plastic is bound to have an impact on ocean ecosystem.”

He said apart from their Delegation, there are a total of around 40 EU Delegations worldwide taking part in the International Beach Clean-Up Day, saying  combating marine pollution is a key priority of environment policy at EU-level.

He said from 2021, a ban will be in place in the EU for single-use plastic cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, drinks stirrers and balloon sticks, as well as food and beverages containers- including cups-made of expanded polystyrene. These items, he said will all have to be made from more sustainable materials or replaced with reusable alternatives, while all products made of Oxo-degradable plastic will also be banned.

Dodou Trawally, Executive Director of the National Environment Agency (NEA) said The Gambia has shown real commitment to the protection of the environment as a key part of sustainable development.

He pointed out that public understanding about environmental issues is very crucial and called on all to realize that man and nature are interdependent and that the deterioration of one would lead to deterioration of the other. 

Author: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang