Oceana, IPEN: Marine plastic threatens food security

Oceana, IPEN: Marine plastic threatens food security

Plastic materials and microplastic particles polluting the waters were found to be responsible for serious harm to aquatic life that then threatens the country’s food safety and security. 

Top Australian fishery veterinarian Dr. Matt Landos, pointed out during a recent webinar that microplastics and plastics in general, contain hazardous chemical additives and can acquire other toxic chemicals from other sources of aquatic pollution. Some of these toxic chemicals remain in the environment for decades and build up in the food chain. 

Landos—who is the director of the Future Fisheries Veterinary Service based in New South Wales—said microscopic life such as zooplanktons found at the bottom of marine food webs confuse the plastic particles for food, contributing to their malnutrition and exposing the fish and the food chain – including fish eaters – to toxic chemicals. 

“Zooplanktons are important in the aquatic food chain as these provide the “first meal” for the fish in their early life. Those aquatic creatures that rely upon these zooplanktons further up the food chain suffer in a knock-on domino effect of starvation. Microplastics have already been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water,” Landos explained.

These were the highlights of the newly released report of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) entitled Aquatic Pollutants in Oceans and Fisheries that was presented in a recent forum that the network conducted with Oceana and Ecowaste Coalition.

The report also emphasizes that most plastic chemicals are toxic, and microplastics attract, concentrate, and magnify other persistent toxic chemicals from the surrounding aquatic environment onto their surfaces.

“The government should act on preventing the impacts of toxic chemicals in plastic production, use, and disposal to also address their effects to the environment and public health,” said Chinkie Peliňo Golle, Executive Director of IPEN.

Oceana vice president Gloria Estenzo Ramos said the primary source of plastic pollution problem is single-use plastic—items meant to be used just once and then discarded—became microplastics that take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose and wreak havoc on the environment.

“Even larger plastics such as polyethylene plastic bags cause direct threats to whales and turtles as they get inadvertently ingested, and cause blockages to the gut,” Ramos added.

The Oceana executive said several countries are already taking action to reduce microplastics in the environment. A 2017 United Nations resolution discussed microplastics and the need for regulations to reduce this hazard to the oceans, their wildlife, and human health. (Source: https://www.un.org/depts/los/consultative_process/documents/ICP17_report_advance_unedited_version.pdf). “While the Philippines has a law regarding solid waste management, implementation by the concerned government agencies remains lacking,” she said.

The Waste Assessment Brand Audit 2019 report of the Global Alliance for Incinerators Alternatives (GAIA) showed that the country produced daily 164 million pieces of sachets, 48 million shopping bags, 45.2 million pieces of “labo” bags.

“We must do our part to help in rapidly reducing the use of plastics to address what is already an escalating problem of pandemic proportion,” Ramos said.

The marine conservation group, along with citizens and other civil society alliances, served Notices to Sue to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) in June for failing to address the country’s plastic pollution problem. 

As provided in Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, the NSWMC is mandated to prepare a list of NEAPP within a year after the law’s effectivity and updates every year thereafter. The commission is composed of 14 national government agencies and private sector representatives. The manufacture, distribution or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials and the importation of consumer products packaged in non-environmentally acceptable materials are prohibited under Section 48 of RA 9003.

“More than two weeks have passed, and we are still waiting for the responses of the government agencies. If they do not provide the necessary mandated action to mitigate this huge problem of plastic pollution, then we will pursue all available legal remedies as provided for by the Constitution and the various laws in the country,” said Ramos.

Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. 

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