Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Beautiful island fallen victim to plastic

Henderson Island, a remote Pacific island that belongs to New Zealand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – yet six tonnes of plastic waste was collected there in two weeks.

“We found debris from just about everywhere. We had bottles and containers, all kinds of fishing stuff and it had come from, well, you name it – Germany, Canada, the Uniteds States, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador,” said Australian marine biologist Jennifer Lavers, who led an expedition to the 10 km long, 5 km wide Henderson Island last month.

The coral atoll, member of the Pitcairn Islands archipelago situated in the middle of the Pacific halfway between New Zealand and Peru, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988 on account of its unparalleled purity and rich ecosystem. Yet thirty years later the ocean currents are delivering unending waves of plastic debris to Henderson, and today it has one of the highest concentrations of plastic pollution on Earth.

Lavers led her first expedition
to the island in 2015, and at that time found 700 pieces of plastic per square metre on its East Beach.

The pollution is made worse by the churning waves having reduced more than half of the waste to tiny particles that are barely visible to the naked eye, which are impossible to clear up but which are ingested by birds and turtles.

The marine biologist is planning more expeditions to the island in 2020 and 2021, but she said her experience has underlined the fact that clean-ups were not a long-term solution to the ocean’s pollution crisis.

Uninhabited Henderson Island is at the centre of the South Pacific gyre Photo: MTI/EPA/IMAS/Jennifer Lavers

Source: MTI – Hungarian News Agency

Further information: Phys.org

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