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Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to marine biodiversity: WWF-Pakistan

Posted on 20 April 2016

Karachi,Uncontrolled dumping of plastic products in the terrestrial and marine environment has becomea serious threat to the animals and plant inhabiting in the coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan. According to WWF-Pakistan solid garbage from cities and towns along the coastline makes its way to the ocean. An estimated14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year.Plastic bags, bottles, toys, packagingmaterial, if not disposed of correctly, can reach the sea.Plastic waste, which decomposes very slowly, therefore, remain either floating in the open sea or piled up on the beaches Fishermen also contribute in this pollution by dumping an estimated 150,000 tons of plastic into the ocean each year, including packaging, plastic nets, lines, and buoys. According to another estimate about 8,000 tons of solid waste mainly consisting of plastic is unaccounted for in Karachi; most of it ending up in the sea around Karachi.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan, plastic pollution is becoming serious threat. Even in remote beaches along Pakistan coast including KundMalir is now littered with plastic pollution. Commercial boats and merchant ships plying in Pakistan waters also contribute plastic through flotsam and jetsam. Floating plastic is mistaken as food item and many animals engulf them, in most cases, having serious and deadly consequences. High concentrations of plastic material, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, puffins, and turtles.

In a recent incident tuna fishing boat operating about 180 nautical miles from Karachi, spotted a floating polypropylene (PP) woven bag which was possibly jetsam by some merchant ship. From the distance, it seems that the bag was moving in the waters. Amir Rahim who isa WWF-trained observer, decided to retrieve the bag and to hisutter surprise, found an Olive ridley turtle fully entangled in this PP bag. The crew tried to release the turtle in the waters but since it was fully entangled, thereforethe crew brought the animal onboard and then carefully cut to free the anima, after which it was released properly in the sea.

According to Amir Rahim, he has seen many turtles entangled in the floating fishing nets but this is the first time he saw a marine turtle entrapped in a floating bag. He urged fellow fishermen and other seafarers not to throw plastic bags and other similar material overboard as these will kill marine animals.

Rab Nawaz, Senior Director-Biodiversity WWF-Pakistan appreciated the efforts of fishermen for releasingOlive ridely turtle from a floating plastic as this will set an example for other fishermennot to dump discarded fishing nets and other plastic material and would help in conservation of non-target species such as marine turtles. This is a contribution to the conservation of threatened marine turtles. Trainingprovided to the fishermen is now bringing commendable results as these fishermen have released a large number of marine animals including 28 whale sharks, 14 mobulids, 5 sun fishes, 3 dolphins, 2 whales and a score of other animals which indicates their commitments and also WWF-Pakistan’s resolves to conserve protected, endangered and threatened species.

Muhammad Moazzam Khan stressed the need for controlling dumping of solid waste especially plastic in the sea, as most of these materials degrade very slowly taking in most cases centuries. There is, therefore, need to control disposal of solid waste which may be taken to the community dump site by the municipal organization. ‘There is also a need to undertake regular cleaning operations of the beaches to remove accumulated plastic’, he added

WWF-Pakistan

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