Maharashtra tops in plastic waste on beaches; food chain under threat
Justifying its state-wide ban on plastic in the Bombay high court recently, the Maharashtra government cited plastic found in the stomach of a dead whale that was washed ashore in Mumbai. “The recent death of a whale near the seashore of Mumbai coast was due to plastic which is confirmed during the autopsy,” said the government’s affidavit to the high court. Similarly, when a postmortem was conducted on a 10-metre-long sperm whale that washed up on Spain’s coast in February, 29 kg of plastic was found in its stomach. The whale had died because of the plastic it had ingested.
From flotsam in the Arabian sea to microplastics in the guts of fishes, the menace of marine debris is widespread and has begun impacting livelihood of coastal communities.
“It was never acknowledged as a problem earlier but for the last couple of years, we have been getting serious complaints from fisherfolk who say their catch has more plastic waste than fish. We are getting reports and evidence of microplastics found in the guts of fishes,” said V Kripa, head, fisheries environment management division, Central marine fisheries research institute.
A recent study said many species of marine fish ingest plastic debris. “Ingested plastic has a variety of lethal and sublethal impacts and can be a route for bioaccumulation of toxic compounds throughout the food web,” said the study published in ‘Proceedings of the Royal Society B’, which publishes research related to biological sciences.
Compared to other coastal states, Maharashtra has reported less debris on its coasts, but the amount of plastic in its waste is as high as 81%.
Stakeholder meetings have seen fishermen complaining of objects that get caught in their nets. “Since we are in a tropical zone, our waters are turbid and carry lot of mud in the flow. When a plastic kit is dumped into the water, mud settles in along with everything else that’s there in the waters. This makes it heavy and it sinks to the sea-bed. These objects get entangled in the stake nets. When they pull, it has lot of weight and this leads to damage to nets also,” she said.
Ironically, fishermen are also part of the problem. Much of the debris comprises fishing gear abandoned in the high seas. Damaged ropes, nets, tarpaulin sheets are often not brought back ashore. And marine creatures like dolphins, turtles, crabs get entangled in them.
Source: Times Of India