Plastic pollution posing threat to ocean’s ecosystem in Vizag coast, say biologists

Subhash Chandran along with his teammates pulling out waste from the seabed during one of their cleanup drives at Rushikonda in Visakhapatnam.

Subhash Chandran along with his teammates pulling out waste from the seabed during one of their cleanup drives at Rushikonda in Visakhapatnam.

In September last year following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic when scuba diver Subhash Chandran went for a dive off Rushikonda coast, he was aghast to see biomedical waste like surgical and cloth masks floating in the sea. Most of the waste was found at just about 100 metres from the shore and two metres deep. Over the next couple of days, he and his team removed more than 1,500 kg of waste from the sea bed.

“The situation has only become worse every year,” says Mr. Subhash, founder of the scuba diving firm Platypus Escapes. So far, Mr. Subhash and his team of scuba divers have pulled out nearly 23,500 kg of garbage including plastics, cloth, bottles and other non-biodegradable materials from the seabed since they started their sea clean-up initiative in 2019. Back in December last year, another scuba diving team led by Balaram Naidu of Livein Adventures collected around 600 kg of plastic and biomedical waste from the seabed in Rushikonda coast. On World Ocean Day, scuba divers and biologists say how plastic pollution is posing a grave threat to the ocean’s ecosystem in Visakhapatnam coast, which has reported a decline in marine species population over the past decade.

From rescuing marine species like the threatened Olive Ridley turtle entangled in broken pieces of fishing nets in the sea to moray eels and smaller varieties like butterflyfish struggling to escape out of polythene covers, Mr. Subhash has maintained a logbook of species rescued during his dives along with the quantity of garbage pulled out every time. “The issue is aggravated through open drainage systems flowing into the ocean and the litter on the beach. Vizag coast has many coral species like compact coral, fire coral, barrel sponge coral and tube coral which support species like barracuda, red snapper, moorish idol and parrot fish. This ecosystem needs to be protected by a sustained campaign,” says Mr. Subhash, who has been carrying out a similar seabed clean-up initiative in the Andaman island.

Biologists say that plastic waste breaks down into tiny particles in the ocean, which are ingested by marine life and eventually end up in human food chain. “The plastic debris is seen in microscopic planktons, which are the basis of marine food chain and has entered the system of predatory fish species like sharks, tuna and snappers. The effect of pollution on marine ecosystem has worsened with biomedical waste. Oceans make up two-thirds of the earth’s surface and are a large carbon sink which should be protected through a deeper study and tourism guidelines,” says M. Ram Murthy, founder of Dolphin Nature Conservation Society.

“Protection of the ocean ecosystem has to begin by a strong campaign to filter plastic waste from open drainages going into the sea and taking up personal responsibility to stop littering our beaches. It takes years of work to pull back the garbage from the sea,” says Mr. Subhash.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 3:08:06 pm |