What is Blue-flagging?
- ‘Blue Flag’ is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators.
- Blue Flag programme aims to connect public with their surroundings and encourage them to learn more about their environment.
- The Blue Flag programme is operated under the auspices of the Foundation for Environmental Education and is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- In order to qualify for this prestigious award, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained.
- About 4500 beaches, marinas and boat operators from 44 different countries have joined the ‘blue-flag’ network.
Marine plastic pollution: A backgrounder
- Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in oceans.
- According to UNEP, about 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the world’s oceans each year.
- Further 60-80% of the litter in oceans is plastic.
- Currently the focus of studies on marine pollution is microplastic pollution.
Causes of marine plastic pollution
- Human activities including both land-based and sea-based activities are the major sources of marine pollution in the world.
- Land-based sources include
- dumping of waste along coastlines
- littering on beaches
- breaking down of ships
- floods and other storm-related events flush this waste into the sea.
- The sea-based sources include
- discarded fishing gear
- shipping activities
- legal and illegal dumping
Poor waste management especially in Asia
- Though Europe and America are the largest plastic producers, Asia is the largest dumper of marine waste.
- According to a study, China was the top dumper of marine waste in the world.
- India is mismanaging over 80% of its waste compared to 2% in the U.S.
- Though India generates around 0.34 kg of waste per person per day (ppd), it is the 12 largest marine waste dumper in the world.
- In contrast, USA though generates 2.58 kg ppd of waste it is the 20th largest dumper.
Impact of marine plastic pollution
- Coastal communities are facing increased expenditures on beach cleaning, public health and waste disposal.
- The shipping industry is impacted by higher costs associated with fouled propellers, damaged engines, and managing waste in harbours.
- The fishing industry damaged gear and reduced and contaminated catch.
Ecological and biodiversity loss
- It severely hampers ecosystem functions and services.
- Fishing gear discared in the sea can entangle and kill marine life.
- Fishing nets, plastic bags can trap fish and mammals, preventing them from swimming, foraging for food and mating.
- Plastic causes severe damage to digestive tracts of various species including fish, seabirds etc.
- Microplastics glued with toxins like pesticides can be ingested by small aquatic life.
- These toxic microplastics can biomagnify as they move up the food chain accumulating in birds, sea life, humans etc.