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World Bank: Marine litter concentration in Caribbean triple world average

The marine litter concentration in The Bahamas and the rest of the Caribbean is nearly three times the global average.

The world average for litter concentration stands at 573 pieces of plastic or waste items per square kilometer (km), however, the average in the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) – which includes The Bahamas – is 2,014 items/km.

Excessive marine pollution is a risk to The Bahamas and 37 other economies within the Caribbean Sea dependent on tourism, with data from the recently released World Bank report, “Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste”, showing that coral reef degradation as a result of marine pollution could result in an estimated annual revenue loss of between $350 million and $870 million among the region’s small island developing states (SIDS).

Up to 80 percent of the waste found in the waters surrounding Caribbean nations is made of plastic.

“Studies have measured the concentration of plastics across the Caribbean Sea and found as many as 200,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer in the northeastern Caribbean,” the report found.

“Based on voluntary beach cleanups facilitated by the Ocean Conservancy, there is more litter in many Caribbean countries than the estimated global average.”

Earlier this week ReEarth, a local environmental group, criticized Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis on the release of several dozen balloons into the air during the Labour Day parade, given how environmentally hazardous and harmful they are to marine life.

Most balloons released wind up in the ocean.

Additionally, the report found that about 85 percent of wastewater in the WCR goes untreated into the ocean and that “52 percent of households in the insular Caribbean — comprising The Bahamas, the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico); and the small islands of the Lesser Antilles — lack sewer connections. More than 320,000 tons of plastic waste remains uncollected each year”.

These findings come after a U.S. court revealed that several Carnival Corporation cruise ships discharged nearly 500,000 gallons of treated sewage, which it referred to as “black water”, into Bahamian waters in 2017.

The Bahamas is one of 14 Caribbean countries committed to banning single use plastics. That policy is expected to be enforced starting January 1, 2020.

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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