Lisa Svensson said governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution.
“This is a planetary crisis,” she said. “In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean.”
Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.
She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.
Plastic waste was immediately suspected, because if turtles have eaten too much plastic it bloats their bellies and they can’t control their buoyancy.
Kai was given laxatives for two weeks to clear out her system, and Ms Svensson witnessed an emotional moment as Kai was carried back to the sea to complete her recovery.
“It’s a very happy moment,” she said. “But sadly we can’t be sure that Kai won’t be back again if she eats more plastic.
“It’s heart-breaking, but it’s reality. We just have to do much more to make sure the plastics don’t get into the sea in the first place.”
Caspar van de Geer runs the turtle hospital for the group Local Ocean Conservation at Watamu in eastern Kenya.
He had demonstrated earlier how uncannily a plastic film pulsating in the water column mimics the actions of the jellyfish some turtles love to eat.
“Turtles aren’t stupid,” he said. “It’s really difficult to tell the difference between plastics and jellyfish, and it may be impossible for a turtle to learn.”
On a pin board he’s compiled a grid of sealed clear plastic bags like the ones used at airports for cosmetics.
Here they contain the plastic fragments removed from the stomachs of sick turtles. Half of the turtles brought here after eating plastics have died.
A huge table at the hospital is laden with an array of plastic waste collected off local beaches – from fishing nets and nylon ropes to unidentifiable fragments of plastic film.
There’s waste from down the coast as far as Tanzania – but also from Madagascar, the Comoros Islands, Thailand, Indonesia and even a bottle from far-away Japan.
There’s a score of mysterious white plastic rings which staff speculate are the rims of yoghurt pots, a plastic lighter. There are disintegrating woven plastic fertiliser bags, plastic straws – and much more.
Bite marks show some items like small suncream bottles have clearly been nibbled at by fish, because they look like potential food.
Local people scour the beach daily for plastic waste. They want clean beaches, and they’re aware that local hotels want the same.
But along the high water line, millions of the fragments of plastics are mixed in with dried seagrass, too small to be collected.
“The scale of the challenge is absolutely enormous,” says Ms Svensson. She’s backing a resolution by Norway this week for the world to completely eliminate plastic waste into the ocean.
If all nations agree to that long-term goal it’ll be considered a UN success.
Certainly, it sounds more ambitious than the current commitment to substantially decrease waste inputs into the sea by 2025.
But some environmentalists argue that the absence of a timetable for preventing waste is a huge failing.
original source from BBC