Updated: Feb 27, 2020
In 2018 I was an intern with Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) on the island of Nusa Lembongan (east of Bali). Here MMF research and monitor our Manta Ray population on Penida and Lembongan Islands. Currently we have over 670 individual manta rays in our data base which grows every week (upon gathering ID shots and data on dives). The head researcher and project leader Elitza Germanov (PHD candidate) is currently studying the effects of micro plastics on marine megafauna. ARTICLE ABOUT MICRO PLASICS/MEGAFAUNA
For quite a while now I have been spending a lot of time diving east of Bali, Indonesia on a small Island called Nusa Penida. I've lived here for the past 18 months I currently dive very regularly, 2 times a day 6 days a week. Over time you do see big changes in the ocean. From natural seasonal changes as you would expect but other changes as well. Marine debris such as plastic pollution has become a more and more common sight for us here in Penida and I know only too well that this is not even the tip of the ‘trash-burg’ so to say. There has not been a single dive I have done here where I didn't se at least 1 piece of plastic. With approx. 8 million tons of trash ending up in our oceans every year, the amount I see daily is only a small part. The enormity of plastic in the water can at times be so over whelming and incredibly depressing. It makes you feel helpless as you try to scoop up as much as you can on the dive and fill your BCD pockets with the trash knowing your barely making any difference. Practically grabbing plastic bags and packaging, straws and water cups out of the way of the Mantas so they don't swallow it. But this is just the big pieces. In regards to Manta Rays who are filter feeders the micro plastics are really the problem here which are often so small you cant even see them. You may be familiar with a video from Bali by Rich Horner a friend of mine (watch video here https://youtu.be/31CdhLMV7Es) that went viral earlier this year. This was a perfect example of what we witness here after wet season. The plastic trash we see around the islands here is not an all year round issue but it certainly is becoming worse every year.
There was a dive this year I had at Manta bay (when i took these photos) and the amount of trash was immense. From anything like plastic take away cutlery, to tampons, nappies, laundry liquid packaging, noodle packets… you name it I saw it. I had some guests diving with me at the time and I was actually embarrassed. It's like taking a good hard look in the mirror and seeing just what we are doing to this planet. Coming up from the dive my guests instantly were looking for someone to blame and asking why is no one doing anything about it. Its so easy to blame the governments, manufacturers and companies selling these products who of course have some responsibility. I feel we should also start looking more at ourselves and what ways do we contribute to this problem. Going back to the topic of ‘micro plastics’ which is a huge issue here when you think of filter feeding marine megafauna such as Mantas. As you can imagine an animal that has to filter thousands of litres of water per day to obtain adequate nutrition. Micro plastics harbor high levels of toxins and chemical pollutants which are introduced to their body via digestion. These toxins accumulate over time and can cause disruption of biological processes and can even be passed from mother to offspring.
It's so easy to give up, as the feeling of helplessness can take over. But just remember every small choice you make in your life adds up. Choose a plastic free life where possible and pressure your loved ones to do the same.
This is a sight that us dive instructors around the world, we are exposed to every day. And it always surprises me and when people are so shocked about it or hadn't seen anything like it before. This is an unbelievably common thing to see in our oceans in this modern day. There is no escaping the truth anymore. Everyone should have to see it and face the truth of what we are doing.