Assessing Marine Plastic Pollution at the Tourism Hotspot of Koh Tao, Thailand

Save The Plastic was part of the first International Conference on Plastic in the Marine Environment which took place in Singapore in December 2018. Leading academics and conservationists gathered to discuss new results and innovative approaches to this global pandemic. As a former NHRCP intern and founder of Save The Plastic, Yanitza presented in a poster the first results from Koh Tao, Thailand.

The island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand is a popular tourist destination, in particular for SCUBA diving and other marine recreation. Its popularity has led to an estimated 30 tons of waste being produced per day on the 19km2 island. Koh Tao has historically had a proactive marine conservation presence with regular cleanup activities being carried out along beaches and subtidally. However, terrestrial development and growth of the local tourist industry has also resulted in severe problems regarding terrestrial waste management. Over the past 10 years, tourism numbers have been estimated to grow by 500% from 141,000 in 2006 to 700,000 in 2016. While efforts have been made to assess the direct impacts of tourism on the marine habitats, little to no data has been collected on the abundance of plastics and other debris being exposed to the marine environment at Koh Tao.

Speaking on her experience at the conference, Yanitza says:

At the first conference on Plastic in the Marine Environment we had the chance to meet and exchange with scientists, the local government, NGOs and companies. With such a diversity of stakeholders, discussions were rich and constructive. Hearing from the internationally known scientist and godfather of microplastics research, Richard Thomson, that end of life design products within a circular economy is crucial to tackle marine plastic pollution and waste accumulation on land, giving us even more energy and willingness to fight against marine plastic. It’s not too late!

On one hand, we had the scientific research on new and innovative techniques for analysing and tracking microplastics all the way to the deep ocean, as well as studies showing how microplastics transit in a marine animal body, and new ways of thinking about the topic of plastic packaging. On the other hand, we heard testimony about projects led by NGOs and their work involving local communities to reduce and manage the waste on land that use land-based strategies to address marine debris.

All agreed unanimously on 3 points: First, education is key to reducing plastic consumption in order to generate less waste that could eventually end up into the ocean. Second is about the vital aspect of setting up and implementing an effective and efficient waste management system. Third is the importance of policy action combined with a shift in industry production towards a circular economy.

After such a fruitful and reenergizing conference, we are all inspired to continue and develop our project about education and data collection of marine plastic pollution”.

The poster can be accessed in full for free here.

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