GREENPEACE has urged the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to take concrete measures against plastics pollution in the high seas to stop environmental degradation and dwindling of marine life in the region.
The call was made ahead of the Asean leaders’ summit in Manila in April. At the same time, Greenpeace urged countries to promote protection of the oceans by including support for global efforts to protect more marine areas.
Lawyer Zelda Soriano, legal and political adviser for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said a 2015 study named five Asean member-countries as the biggest sources of plastics pollution in the world’s oceans. These are: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
She said now is the time for Asean to come together and protect and conserve the fragile marine environment before it is too late.
“We challenge the Philippine chairmanship to make a mark and leave a historic legacy if it can muster regional cooperation to address the plastics pollution that originates from Asean countries,” Soriano said.
In a recent forum held by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Manila, crucial issues were raised on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions.
The forum was held in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Pew Charitable Trusts attended by delegates from Southeast Asian nations, marine scientists and activists from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
In its report, Greenpeace said plastic production rates have seen a steady growth in recent years, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The report also showed that of the 275 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean.
“Plastic wastes often float in the open seas, often ending up in gyres, circular motion of currents, forming conglomerations of swirling plastic trash called garbage patches, or accumulates in closed bays, gulfs and seas,” the report said.
It added plastics also kill and injure a wide range of marine life and consequently people’s health are threatened when they eat fish that have ingested toxin-saturated plastics.
Soriano noted areas beyond national jurisdiction make up two-thirds of the world’s ocean that are governed by an insufficient patchwork of management mechanisms, with little coordination across the bodies that regulate industries such as fishing, mining and shipping.
She said a new treaty could help to close gaps where no one country or body has full authority to act, and create opportunities to establish marine-protected areas including fully protected reserves, in waters beyond national control.
Asean governments, Soriano said, need to create more marine reserves where biodiversity can thrive, both within and beyond national waters adding that this is the only way to effectively address marine pollution and climate change that adversely affect the productivity of the oceans.