Plastic polluting Scotland’s remotest islands and beaches

Marine scientists aboard Greenpeace’s vessel the Beluga II have documented extensive plastic pollution in some of the most remote parts of the UK.

The Beluga II  is due to dock in Edinburgh today after a 2-month survey and in-depth analysis will follow in the coming months.

Initial findings document extensive plastic pollution in remote locations of Scotland, including important feeding grounds for basking sharks, seals and whales and numerous seabird colonies.

This survey builds on the increasing body of scientific evidence that has highlighted the scale of the plastic pollution problem in the world’s oceans and the threat to marine life and human health.

recent Coastwatch report showed that 80 per cent of surveyed beaches in Ireland contained plastic litter.

Greenpeace will present a petition to the Scottish government calling for a deposit refund scheme for drinks containers to be introduced.

This follows the recent announcement of a bill by the Green Party that would implement a similar system here in Ireland.

Among the measures, the bill would implement a 10 cent refund to citizens returning plastic, glass or aluminium drinks containers.

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan TD outlined the global context for this bill: “The issue of plastic pollution is a massive challenge. Every year, over 110 million tonnes of plastic is produced. Of this, up to 43% ends up in landfill.”

He also referenced the worrying estimates that 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into oceans each year and that at the current rate, we are on route to having more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Countries that use such schemes typically see greater than 90 per cent return rates.

The Environmental Pillar has long advocated for a drinks container deposit refund scheme and have just testified before the Joint Oireachtas Budget Committee asking for such a measure to be adopted.

Mindy O’Brien, of VOICE, which is a member organisation of the Environmental Pillar, said: “With the new government in place, and with Scotland taking similar steps, we call on Minister Naughten to join 23 other countries and support this initiative to combat our throw-away society and to promote the circular economy”.

A version of this article appeared in the Green News on June 27th, 2017.

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Scientists warn increasing ocean temperatures could destroy world’s coral reefs within decades

New research published in the journal PeerJ, reports that strict conservation and protection measures has failed to halt the destruction of coral reefs in the Hawaiin Islands, with 90% of Hawaiian coral reefs suffering bleaching in 2014 and 2015.

Widespread bleaching of coral reefs, whereby corals expel crucial algae living symbiotically within their tissues, is a stress response to increasing ocean temperatures resulting from global climate change.

Coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystems on Earth and provide ecosystem services for millions of people.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is also reported to be in “terminal condition” as back-to-back coral bleaching along its 2250-kilometre length in 2016 and 2017 has impacted 70% of the Reef.

Many corals need years to recover and increasing ocean temperatures and back-to-back bleaching events could spell the end for coral reefs within decades. The International Society for Reef Studies predicts that 90% of coral reefs will be at risk of destruction by 2050.

In a recent interview with the Guardian Dr Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, said: “the idea that we will sustain reefs in the US 100 years from now is pure imagination. At the current rate, it will be 20 or 30 years, it’s just a question of time”.

This view is mirrored in an article published today in the journal Nature in which Professor Terry Hughes, of the James Cook University in Australia, states that “returning reefs to past configurations is no longer an option”.

The article highlights the need for maintaining and preserving what we have through “radical changes in the science, management and governance of coral reefs”.

A version of this article appeared in the Green News on 2nd June 2017.