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Ocean plastic a 'planetary crisis' - UN

From BBC - December 4, 2017

Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, the UN oceans chief has warned.

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."

She was speaking to BBC News ahead of a UN environment summit in Nairobi.

Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.

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 ca not 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.

'Heart-breaking' reality

"It's a very happy moment," she said. "But sadly we ca not be sure that Kai wo not 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 do not 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 are not 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.

Gaining momentum?

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