Coral prey or plastic?

Pacific Conversations with SPREP
Last December, the Pacific islands took their voice to the International Coral Reef Initiative General Meeting at the UN Environment Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The conversation continues in the 2018 International Year of the Reef and the Pacific Year of the Reef.

Coral reef Taveuni  Stuart Chape copy copy copy
Coral Reef, Taveuni. Photo © Stuart Chape

This Pacific Conversation showcases microplastics, providing you with more information to help make a difference in our region.

Did you know
corals are eating plastics?

Coral reefs help protect our island life, playing a vital role as a natural breakwater minimising the wave impacts during storms and cyclones. Coral reefs also help support 25% of all marine life, including over 4,000 species of fish. Reefs also help contribute to our local communities both through direct use values which are derived from fisheries and tourism industries and through indirect use values which includes coastline protection.

Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic from bigger pieces of plastics, such as plastic water bottles, nappies, fishing nets, plastic bags, and paint that have been broken down by the elements of the ocean and sun. The microplastics, only up to 5 mm in size, can be mistaken for plankton, which is the food that coral normally eat.

When the plastics are eaten by the corals, they often block up the coral and stop the coral from getting any further nutrients to grow, therefore harming the coral. Microplastics can also carry pollutants. We are still learning about the harmful impacts from plastic consumption. A new study in the journal Environmental Pollution showed that eating microplastics was linked to tissue death and bleaching in corals.

Corals are not the only animals eating plastics: there have been different types of plastics found in the stomach of sea turtles, birds, whales, and even the fishes we eat!

How do we keep our seas free from plastics?

There are different ways that the Pacific is stepping up to keep plastics from entering the oceans. The leaders of the Pacific have promised to ban items that have microbeads in them, and they are also promising to work to stop marine pollution.

SPREP and UN Environment are working to create a Marine Litter Regional Action Plan with the Pacific countries to keep our seas clean through better waste management.

When you use your own reusable container for take-away, bring your own bag for shopping and say 'no thanks' to plastic bags, you are saving the ocean—and saving us too.

Help give voice to this Pacific Conversation – learn more about coral reefs and our ocean , check out the UN Environment and SPREP Factsheets.

Join the Pacific Conversation.
#Pacific #IYOR2018
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