World Oceans Day
Discovery of a 10km-wide garbage ‘island’ in the Gulf of Thailand makes this World Ocean Day more important than ever.
June 08, 2017
The theme of 2017 World Oceans Day is “Our Oceans, Our Future” and the main area for conservation is plastic pollution prevention and cleaning the ocean of marine litter. This is a subject close to our heart: we have featured the problem in a past OpEd
and we plan to feature some solutions to the plastic pollution problems in our Fall/Winter print issue. In the meantime, have a read about other oceanic issues that affect Thailand below and download plastic pollution resources and take action
Bangkok XXIII - Sky Transport by Julien Gautier
An ocean of plastic soup: There is currently 150,000,000,000 kg of plastic waste in our oceans. If all that plastic washed up on shore, there would be five plastic bags on every 30cm of coastline! Amazingly, only 1% of the plastic waste in the oceans remains on the surface but that is enough to create new “continents” of plastic that scientists estimate are somewhere between twice as large as France (or Thailand) and twice as large Australia.
Not to be outdone, Thailand now has its own garbage patch! Earlier this year, it was discovered that there is an “island” of plastic in the Gulf of Thailand that is around 10km wide and consists of around 100 tons of waste! If and when that washes up on the islands of the gulf, it certainly won’t be a good thing for tourism, to say the least!
Rising Tide: Over the past 100 years, the sea level has dramatically risen and scientists expect the rate to increase as the ocean reacts slowly to changes and the impact of global warming is thus only beginning. According to Dr. James Hansen, “the father of climate change awareness” and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, melting glacial ice sheets could cause the ocean levels to rise several meters in the next 50 to 150 years.
Aside from the catastrophic consequences to countries such as the Maldives and Bangladesh, all coastal cities, including Bangkok, which lies mostly below sea level and is already ‘sinking’ 1.5 to 5cm a year, are in grave danger. Some believe Bangkok could be underwater as early as 2030 if action, including construction of dykes and seawalls, as well as new buildings designed in anticipation of the inevitable flooding, aren’t initiated as soon as possible.
Sharks of the Andaman Sea Sharks: Apex Predators or Endangered Entrees?
As one of the top marine predators, sharks play an important role in the food web and help ensure balance in the ocean’s ecosystem. Relative to other marine fish, sharks are characterized by relatively slow growth, late sexual maturity, and a small number of young per brood. These biological factors leave many species of sharks vulnerable to overfishing.
While, on average, only 6-10 people are killed by sharks each year, we kill somewhere around 100 million sharks in that time, more than 70% of which are killed merely for their fins. While most demand comes from Asia, where the soup of shark fins is as much a status symbol as a delicacy, thankfully, there has been a worldwide movement to educate consumers, including a public service campaign by basketball star Yao Ming that has greatly reduced demand in China and even led to a ban on shark fin soup at Chinese state dinners. Closer to home, Fin Free Thailand encourages hotels and restaurants to stop serving shark fin and asks Thais to take a fin free pledge on their informative website: finfreethai.org
A barrier to global catastrophe:
Coral is one of the oldest-living and most plentiful animals on the planet—yes, coral are animals! Colonies of millions of different coral cluster together to create reefs, which in turn serve as ecosystems for thousands of other marine species, including fish and mollusks. Considered “the rainforests of the ocean”, reefs play an invaluable part of a symbiotic global ecosystem.
Here in Thailand, coral reef systems are at a “crisis” level according to Pinsak Suraswadi, director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC), in an interview with the Phuket Gazette
. Thailand’s coral reefs are particularly under threat from unsustainable fishing practices and coastal development. While little is being done to slow coastal development, Green Fins Thailand is on a mission to “protect and conserve coral reefs by establishing and implementing environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving tourism industry." The original Greenfins Programme was initiated by United Nations Environment Programme and in Thailand is implemented by PMBC to promote environmentally-friendly diving practices. To learn how to help, including how to become a Green Fins snorkeler/diver, go to greenfins-thailand.org
On an even more promising front, the non-profit Global Coral Reef Alliance, dedicated to growing, protecting, and managing coral reefs, is working in collaboration with Biorock®, Inc. to actually grow new coral reefs in 20 countries, including Maldives, Seychelles, Indonesia, Mexico, and Panama, as well as here in Thailand, where more than a third of all coral reefs near coastal areas have been destroyed by sediment from land developments. The Biorock® method is the only method known that produces the natural limestone that corals need to grow on and accelerates coral growth, healing, and resistance to stress. It typically uses solar energy to directly increase coral health, allowing it to survive conditions that would kill it, and allowing reefs to be restored where they cannot recover naturally (www.biorock-thailand.com).