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One of the World’s Greatest Surviving Natural Treasures Littered with Plastic
The plastic crisis continues as scientists find more and more evidence of the damage it is causing. It has recently been reported that vital refuge for rare wildlife has been polluted with the largest accumulations of plastic waste of any island in the world.
The Aldabra Atoll, a ring shaped coral reef island in the outer Seychelles, is a unique and isolated haven for biodiversity in the Indian Ocean. It was declared a national heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1982 and is described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the world’s greatest surviving natural treasures”.
The island has managed to avoid many human threats over the centuries but unfortunately has not managed to escape one of the biggest threats to our oceans – plastic waste.
The surrounding current network and positioning of the islands has resulted in a colossal build up of ocean plastic across the atoll and according to research from the UK and Seychelles, there is an estimated 513 tonnes of plastic, including 360,000 flip-flops, washed up on the shore of Aldabra.
Removing the Plastic
The Aldabra Clean Up Project recently embarked on an expedition to remove some of the plastic waste from the atoll.
When researchers arrived at the island they witnessed turtles attempting to nest on beaches littered with a phenomenal amount of flip-flops, bottles, lighters and other plastic items that had been carried thousands of miles by the ocean’s current.
Volunteers spent three weeks attempting to relieve the island of some of its waste. However, it is estimated that 95% of the plastic is still there and would take a further 18,000 hours of labour to collect it and carry it 700 miles by ship to the main Seychelles island group where it can be disposed of properly – a task that is estimated to cost £3.6m.
A Haven for Wildlife
Volunteers arriving at the island were greeted by sea turtles, tortoises, black tip reef sharks and Frigate birds that all reside on and around the island.
Unfortunately, the giant Aldabra tortoises eat polystyrene foam washed up on the beaches, birds have been seen with their bills trapped shut by plastic bottle tops and tiny fragments are thought to have a detrimental effect on other marine life on the surrounding coral reefs.
We are All Responsible
It is not just the responsibility of the Seychelles to clean up the plastic waste that has washed up on the Aldabra atoll. This waste has travelled thousands of miles, with labels on some of the bottles showing that some of it comes from as far away as Indonesia and Taiwan. Everyone around the world must make a conscious effort to reduce their plastic waste and protect this beautiful planet that we all share.
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