Increasing plastic pollution poses serious threat to marine life

Increasing plastic pollution poses serious threat to marine life

KARACHI: In a rare incidence, a flat needlefish (Ablennes hians) locally called 'Alore', got entangled in the handle of a plastic cup was caught alive by Momin Khan, around 270 km southwest of Karachi, Daily Times learnt on Friday.

The fish was taken onboard and tried to detach the cup attached to its midsection. Fishermen tried to remove the cup from the fish but it could not survive during the process.

Studies initiated by WWF-Pakistan reveal that on some beaches such as Clifton, plastic pollution contributes up to 50 per cent of beached garbage. Now, even remote beaches along Pakistan's coast including Kund Malir and Gwadar are littered with plastic pollution which is affecting marine life along coastal and offshore waters. It has been reported that globally one out of three marine mammals have been found entangled in plastic litter. Similarly, studies indicate that about 90 per cent of sea birds digest plastic. Fishes and other animals are also not spared as they consume micro plastic or become entangled in plastic debris.

Uncontrolled dumping of plastic products in the terrestrial and marine environment has become a serious threat to animals and plants inhabiting coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan. According to one estimate, around 6.4 million metric tons of trash, which mostly contains plastic, is dumped in the world's oceans every year. If plastic bags, bottles, toys and packaging material are not disposed of properly, they reach the sea and damage coastal ecosystems. Plastic waste, which decomposes very slowly, remains floating in the open sea or piles up on beaches. Pakistan is no exception to this, as improper dumping of city garbage at unauthorized locations such as along the shores of Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi has resulted in an unprecedented increase in plastic pollution on the beaches and sub tidal environment along the coastline.

According to Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Advisor (Marine Fisheries), WWF-Pakistan, plastic pollution is becoming a serious threat in Pakistani waters which is not only being littered on our beaches but is drastically increasing in offshore waters. He also said that plastic pollution contributes through flotsam and jetsam generated from ships including fishing vessels operating in sea. Floating plastic is mistaken as food item and many animals became engulfed in it, in most cases, with serious and deadly consequences. High concentrations of plastic material, particularly plastic bags, are found to restrict the breathing and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, seabirds, and turtles.

Khan, further said that the flat needlefish is a fast moving fish which possibly misidentified the floating plastic cup as food item and became entangled. 'No such case of entanglement was ever reported from any parts of the world', he added.

Rab Nawaz, Senior Director Programmes, WWF-Pakistan urged the local administration to properly remove garbage from the city and called for adequate disposal at dumpsites and controlling unauthorized dumping of garbage at Ibrahim Hyderi and along other parts of the coast. He also stressed the need to create awareness among the general public about rational use of plastic in their daily chores and also promote use of recyclable material instead of plastic. It is a persistent chemical and takes hundreds of years before degrading. According to Rab Nawaz, accumulation of plastic in the ecosystem, especially along the coast and in the offshore waters, poses serious threats to marine biodiversity, hence urgent steps are needed to address this growing issue all over the world.



Published in Daily Times, June 24th, 2017.