Speakers at a national campaign on Swachh Sagar Surakshit Sagar (Clean Coast-Safe Sea) have called for awareness and participatory action to mitigate marine pollution.

Keeping a clean sea and reducing marine pollution is critical for ensuring the life of aquatic organisms including fish and the livelihood of millions, mainly fishermen. There should be concerted efforts to reduce marine pollution, they said at the campaign jointly organised by ICAR-Central Institute of Fisheries Technology and the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Leela Edwin, Director, ICAR-CIFT emphasised that marine pollution is a global problem. Plastic pollution is one major reason. Besides the plastics being dumped directly into the seas, the plastics and other pollutants on the land also end up in the seas. It is detrimental to marine biodiversity, ecosystems, and fisheries.

The pollutants and microplastics reach the humans through the food chain. Though it is a global issue, local actions can contribute significantly to mitigating it. Awareness generation and social participation are the key.

In the technical session, S Bijoy Nandan, Professor, Department of Marine Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry, CUSAT, emphasised the need to have science-based policy changes. Plastic accounts for 85 per cent of marine litter.

Globally, around 14 million tonnes of marine litter ended up in the oceans and India is considered the 12th largest source of marine litter. Microplastics are a potential threat to seafood safety. Toxicological profiling of polyvinyl chloride micro-plastics showed biochemical, hematological and behavioural changes in the native fish Etroplus suratensis (Karimeen).

Importance of mangroves

Mangroves are forests that keep the health of the ocean and protect the land, said BK Tyagi, Consultant, Vigyan Prasar, DST, New Delhi. Besides, it serves as an essential part of the habitat for several fish species. Mangroves could moderate the forces of tidal waves during Tsunami that devastated Indian coasts in 2005.

Mangroves help in mitigating coastal erosion as well. He emphasised the importance to have programmes to conserve mangroves where it already exists and expand them to newer areas.

The remnants of fishing gear that are left in the seas are a major cause of fish loss, said MP Remesan, Principal Scientist of ICAR-CIFT. Fishes are entangled in the fishing gears or nets, leading to “ghost fishing”.

CIFT is working on the aspects of marine litter for a decade and researched “abandoned lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear and vessels, its impacts to the environment”. CIFT also collaborated with international agencies like FAO, IMO-FAO, etc for researching marine litter. The fishermen are to be encouraged to bring to the shore the damaged nets they come across, he said.

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