The two-day National Conference on Marine Debris (COMAD) has raised its concern over the rise in plastic debris on seas, saying that “oceans will house more plastics than fish by 2050.”

According to V Kripa, CMFRI’s principal scientist, 850 million tonnes (mt) of plastics would be found in the ocean by 2050, whereas the presence of fish in waters will be only 812 mt by that time.

The two-day conference is being organised by the Marine Biological Association of India at Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

Quoting recent studies, Kripa pointed out that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of this, 2,69,000 tonnes float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per sq km litter the deep sea.

According to reports, 150 mt of plastics contained in the marine ecosystem. The amount of plastic waste entering the ocean from land each year exceeds 4.8 mt, she said adding that the micro-plastics were posing a serious threat to the marine food webs.

Plastics, nets: a threat

The coastal waters are highly contaminated with plastic debris. Since the coastal waters are nursery area for several fishes, high amount of plastics in coastal areas will have drastic impact on many fishery resources.

Abandoned or lost nets, commonly known as ‘ghost nets’ are also a major concern which disrupt the environment of ocean and troubles fishing activities. Disposing such nets also causes entanglement of dolphins and entanglement in the propellers of fishing boats. This is also a threat to migratory turtles, she added.

Poor garbage culture

Earlier inaugurating the conference, Vasudevan Rajagopalan, Dean, Thiagaraja College of Engineering, Madurai, said that the problem is not with plastic but poor garbage culture which is leading to accumulation of waste in land and water ecosystem. Plastic is no more meant to be a waste, but a fruitful resource for multiple developmental purposes if processed scientifically.

The Padma Shri awardee Vasudevan, who is also known as the Plastic Man of India for converting plastic wastes into tar for road construction, said that careless throwing away of plastics is creating problems leading to the degradation of resources both in the land and the ocean. If processed systematically, plastic could be made environmentally-benefiting and energy-saving resources.