Thousands of pieces of garbage, primarily plastic, wash up in the sea, river, lagoons and coastlines across the country. The marine litter causes environmental and health issues and affects the tourism industry. So stakeholders are engaged in formulating a plan to prevent dumping of litter in the waters. Today, at the Radisson, the Ministry of the Environment took the lead to keep the sea clean. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Manmade waste that has been discharged deliberately or accidentally into the coastal or marine environment is a growing concern the world over. Floating debris is likely to accumulate at the center of large spirals known as gyres. When the drifting mass of plastic rubbish washes aground, it is referred to as beach litter. Marine pollution is an increasing problem on Belize’s coastline.
Peter Kohler, Commonwealth Litter Program
“Marine litter is important because most of Belize is coastline. A lot of Belizean activities are based on the water or in rivers and all of that leads to the sea. It’s a huge global challenge, but it’s also a challenge locally for Belizeans and it’s important because it affects every walk of life.”
…including the tourism industry, arguably the largest contributor to Belize’s gross domestic product. With the ever-growing use of plastic, human influence has become an issue since most plastics are not biodegradable. Plastics that find their way out to sea ultimately affect marine and human life.
“Marine creatures eat the plastics, it fouls fishing nets and it can also get into shipping lanes. So it has a massive economic impact which we are just starting to understand globally. And because Belizeans are so dependent on the sea for their livelihoods, for tourism, it plays a huge role. Not only economically, but also everything that goes into the sea breaks down, the fish consume it and we love fish here and we eat the fish. So it goes from the sea and back onto the dinner plate.”
And so to raise awareness, from a technical perspective, the Department of the Environment has teamed up with the Commonwealth Litter Program to engage stakeholders. The idea, according to environmental officer, Maxine Monsanto, is for them to subsequently put together a plan of action to address the situation.
Maxine Monsanto, Environmental Officer, DOE
“These four days are actually targeted stakeholder workshops; they are very specific to invited technical persons to participate. Each day is a specific pillar, yesterday was marine science litter. Today is land-based sources of marine litter. Tomorrow will be sea-based sources of marine litter and the last day is education outreach and waste removal. The objective of this targeted workshop is basically to have these technical people come up with actions that can be sent forward to a national workshop that we are hosting for the development of a national marine litter waste management action plan and policy. The idea that we are working with at the department is that this is complimentary to other ongoing activities for the phase-out of single-use plastics, however, this is looking at marine litter in general. It’s identifying how we can monitor it in our rivers and in our marine environment. It’s identifying actions of how we can address it as well as improve and strengthen waste management and it’s looking at it from different levels: private sector, public sector, N.G.O. and education.”
The initiative is part of a cooperation that Belize has signed on to along with several other Commonwealth nations to keep the oceans as clean as possible.
“This is part of a Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance that the Ministry of Environment committed to. We supported some of the action, such as the elimination of single-use plastic bags which I am sure you know is part of the legislation and we need to show if we actually implement the legislation, how we actually successfully implement the legislation.”