Mediterranean at risk of becoming ‘a sea of plastic’: WWF

The Mediterranean Sea is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of pollution from microplastics threatening marine species and human health, according to a WWF report release on Friday.

The report “Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution” raises the alarm on the dramatic effects that excessive plastic use, poor waste management and mass tourism are having on one of the most visited regions in the world.

“Worsening plastic pollution will threaten the Mediterranean’s global reputation for tourism and seafood, undermining the local communities who depend on these sectors for their livelihoods,” said John Tanzer of WWF International. “The plastics problem is also a symptom of the overall decline in the health of the Mediterranean and must serve as a rallying call for real action.”

Today, plastic represents 95 per cent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and lying on its beaches. Most of this plastic is released into the sea from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, with tourists visiting the region increasing marine litter by 40 per cent each summer.

Large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species, such as sea turtles and monk seals, but microplastics are now the real danger. According to the report, these “smaller and more insidious fragments” are almost four times higher in the Mediterranean compared with the plastic island found in the North Pacific Ocean.

“In Europe, we produce an enormous amount of plastic waste, the majority of which is sent to landfills, resulting in millions of tonnes of plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each year. This contaminating flow, combined with the Mediterranean being semi-enclosed, has seen harmful microplastics reach record concentration levels, threatening both marine species and human health,” said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative.

WWF wants to see governments, businesses and individuals adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic pollution in urban, coastal and marine environments. This includes boosting plastic waste recycling and reuse and banning single-use plastic items such as bags.

Image credit: Paolo Margari via Flickr

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