Conservation group urges action against marine trash

10/19/2021 10:08 PM
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Debris found along the coast of Yulin County on Oct. 10. Image courtesy of Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation
Debris found along the coast of Yulin County on Oct. 10. Image courtesy of Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation

Taipei, Oct. 19 (CNA) A Taipei-based ocean conservation group urged the government on Tuesday to take swift action and come up with a set of measures to address the deteriorating problem of marine trash.

In a news conference, Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation CEO Lin Dong-liang (林東良) called on the government to amend laws and offer subsidies for concerned parties as a means of achieving the aim, as more human-created waste is drifting to Taiwan's northeastern coast from the southwestern parts, where the majority of oyster growers are based.

Over the past three years, an increasing amount of abandoned sheds and pieces of polystyrene boards used by farmers to grow oysters has been spotted along Taiwan's northeastern coast as a result of northbound ocean currents, according to Lin.

At the same time, a vast surface of the waters off Taiwan's western coast has been covered with broken pieces of white polystyrene boards or buoys, which Lin called a "terrible sight."

Due to the diverse types of discarded fishing gear being found along the coast of western Taiwan, Lin called for a concerted effort between the central and local authorities to swiftly tackle the marine trash problem on the legal and practical fronts.

According to the Fishery Debris Handbook of West Taiwan compiled by the foundation, over 60 percent of marine trash was produced by oyster growers in Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, and Tainan in southwestern Taiwan.

Citing the findings of the handbook, Yen Ning (顏寧), chief executive of the environmental consultancy IndigoWaters, said more dumped oyster-growing gear has been found along the coasts of the four areas in southwestern Taiwan, and the Penghu Islands that lie to the west to Chiayi, while more abandoned fishing gear has been found in the waters off Hsinchu and Miaoli near central Taiwan.

Although recycling facilities for discarded fishing nets have been established along the coastal areas on Taiwan proper, she said there is an urgent need to regulate the use of polystyrene boards and buoys by oyster growers.

It is hoped that a ban on the use of polystyrene boards could be imposed in the coming two or three years and monetary subsidies for oyster growers to shift to buoys made of other materials could be put in place at the same time, she said.

Yen said that encouraging oyster growers to shift to other types of buoys is a lengthy task, and Taiwan lags far behind South Korea, which has spent 10 years to achieve this.

Meanwhile, oyster growers in China and Japan have also switched to buoys made of resistant materials instead of those made of polystyrene to cut pollution from the synthetic plastic, she noted.

Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) Deputy Director-General Sung Hsin-chen (宋欣真) told CNA that under a marine cleanup project, a fleet of 4,589 ships and 2,953 divers had been formed to help local governments recycle discarded fishing nets and polystyrene items.

The OCA is part of the Ocean Affairs Council, a Cabinet-level agency which oversees maritime issues.

By Sept. 30, a total of 93 metric tons of used fishing nets and rope used to tie oysters as well as 33 metric tons of polystyrene had been recycled under the project, relevant tallies showed.

(By Flor Wang and Chang Hsiung-feng)

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