By Katia Silva Marine Biologist and Guide at Cabo Trek
Marine debris includes any anthropogenic, manufactured, or processed solid material (regardless of size) discarded, disposed of, or abandoned that ends up in the marine environment, and in some instances may also be a vessel for dangerous pollutants that are eventually released into the marine environment. Marine litter may result from activities on land or at sea. Marine litter is a complex cultural and multi-sectoral problem that exacts tremendous ecological, economic, and social costs around the globe.
Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. From plastic bags to pesticides – most of the waste we produce on land eventually reaches the oceans, either through deliberate dumping or from run-off through drains and rivers.
Marine debris or marine litter has long been a problem and threat to marine life. Marine mammals, seabirds and fish die each year from being entangled in or ingesting marine litter. Every year 6.4 million tons of plastic, with all the toxins they contain, pose a threat to sea life and ecosystems. Pieces smaller than 5mm in size are called microplastic. Sources for microplastics in the ocean include cosmetic products, textiles such as fleece jackets, and rubbish washed from land and ships that dump their plastic waste in the ocean (even though it is prohibited).
The fishing industry accounts for 10% of marine debris. Nets and fishing gear get lost or are thrown away into the ocean. These “ghost nets” continue trapping fish for many decades. Working together supporting local initiatives such as Zero Waste Los Cabos, Cabo Trek is collaborating with underwater clean ups in Cabo San Lucas. Most of the trash collected until now by divers is plastic.
Marine debris is, therefore, part of a broader problem of solid waste management, which affects all coastal and upland communities including inland waterways and is closely linked to the protection and conservation of the marine and coastal environment and sustainable development. A lack of capacity and funding to effectively manage solid waste is common, particularly in developing countries, and contributes to the problem of marine debris. However, pollution is a problem that can no longer be left for future generations to solve. We need to take action now to find and implement solutions.
Everyone can do your part and collaborate with simple attitudes to rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse unnecessary material especially plastic. Another way is to support organizations, companies and brands with environmental responsibility in environmental conservation.