“Plastics litter in any environment is unacceptable” – Marine Litter Solutions
It’s all over the news. Plastic rubbish is overrunning waste facilities, lining our highways, and worst of all, destroying our wildlife and their habitats. As an island, we face environmental challenges different than those found on the mainland.
The Problem #
For Mallorca and the Balearic Islands, the most prevalent and obvious problem is plastics finding their way into our sea, killing or maiming our marine life, making unsightly messes on the beaches and in general ruining the very reason tourists flock here every year. It’s not a huge surprise. With a population of 1.3 million people, we would already generate a significant amount of waste, but couple that with the fact we receive ten times that number in visitors each year, and the situation grows critical.
Representatives from the Palma Aquarium disclosed in 2017 that plastics littering the sea are now by far the biggest problem we face. Whereas sea life getting ensnared by fishing hooks used to be a major issue, today nearly 90% of the animals rescued or found have been tangled in plastics and ropes.
Fish, turtles, sharks, and dolphins are commonly found to have ingested plastic tops, bags and other small items, sometimes killing them, sometimes making for unpleasant surprises at the fishmongers.
It’s clear that unless action is taken, and fast, the very thing the island relies on for employment, enjoyment and yes, life itself, will be forever gone.
To The Rescue! #
But that isn’t to say all is gloom and doom. There are agencies and organisations both within and outside of the government who are taking serious steps to ensure we don’t lose our precious resource under piles of plastic.
One such is the Centro Oceanografico de Baleares, part of IEO, the Instituto Español de Oceanografia. This group of about 70 scientists and students monitors a variety of environmental factors, including the impact of climate change, protection of marine habitats, and sustainable management of marine ecosystems.
Then there are NGOs such as the Fundación Save The Med, who are working with the government creating a network of what are called MPAs, or marine protected areas. They also run a programme called Dos Manos, working with schools, companies and individuals teaching kids and adults alike the impact plastic waste has on the seas. They sponsor beach clean ups as well as educational offerings, allowing volunteers to be part of the solution.
Then there are those who think a bit more outside-the-box, such as the Seabin Project. Founded by two Australians, this Palma-based project is building rubbish collecting “bins” for the oceans. They collect trash, fuel and detergents that would otherwise have been dumped in the sea. Currently, they focus on ports and marinas, as the waters are calmer and the concentration of people is higher, making them the ideal spots for this ingenious idea.
These are but a few of the organisations working to help reduce, and ideally eliminate plastic waste from entering our waters. But the task ahead is daunting.
What More To Do? #
These organizations are working hard to help, but more is needed. Volunteers are always welcome, as are donations. The government could take a more active role and recycle plastics here on the island converting old plastic sacks into sunglasses or usable, practical items. And we, as individuals could organize beach clean-up days enlisting friends and family to be part of the solution. If we all do our small part, plastics polluting our sea can be a thing of the past.
Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park
This protected area is crucial to the health of the Balearics. Watch the video to see this precious resource.
By Stephanie Horsman
30 December, 2020