Park rangers and volunteers wore gloves and brought along with them big sacks in the hopes of cleaning up the tons of plastic waste that washed up on the shores of the Galapagos islands.
The microparticles from the waste discarded from big cities in countries all over the world, are perhaps “one of the greatest threats to the iguanas, tortoises, birds, and fishes of the Galapagos,” according to a new report by the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Jennifer Suarez, a biologist and marine ecosystems expert with Galapagos National Parks (GNP), told AFP that the tiny plastics could someday become part of the food chain that both people and animals would later feed on.
Bottles, bags, lids, containers, and fishing nets may break down thanks to sun rays and ocean’s saltwater, but its microparticles could sunder off and be ingested by land and sea creatures.
The AFP team joined a group of volunteers to clean uninhabited areas in Punta Albermarle in the far north of Isabela Island and discovered a vast amount of waste. Tons of sex toys, shoes, lighters, pens and other wastes were also found in other areas.
“More than 90 percent of the waste gathered doesn’t come from Galapagos activities, but rather from South America, Central America, and even a great deal of waste with Asian branding,” said GNP director Jorge Carrion.
According to the same report, most of the plastic waste washed ashore in Galapagos was Peruvian, Colombian or Panamanian products, and containers with a Chinese branding.
“Over the last two years of monitoring, we’ve noticed that the largest number of brands is Peruvian and Chinese,” Carrion told AFP.
Sharlyn Zuniga, a clean-up volunteer, also shared that they have discovered tons of plastic bags eaten by sea turtles after mistaking them as jellyfish, which is an important of their diet.
“We have indiscriminately thrown so much waste into the sea that it has turned up at coasts where there are no people, but already there is garbage,” Zuniga told AFP. “What I saw was very hard [to take]. We’re used to seeing the best part of the Galapagos in pictures and postcards.”
Carrion said they hope there would be less wastes in the coming years.
“We need to go beyond just collecting waste. We need to appeal to consciences on a global level, so people stop throwing waste into the sea,” Carrion has told AFP.