A Plastic Invasion

Image: A Belize reefscape that is unaffected by any plastic pollution.


Today is our second day of the expedition. We are diving 30 kilometres offshore of Belize City at our first site on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. We dived to ten metres with the SVII camera conducting transects alongside the reef.

When we entered the water the reef looked to be in quite good condition. As our dive went on we noticed that sunlight was often being blocked by what we thought was a giant cloud of jellyfish. However, on closer inspection it turned out that there was a floating cloud of rubbish riding the currents above us: hundreds of plastic bags, plastic bottles, tortilla wrappers and lots of small ‘bite-sized’ pieces of floating rubbish. This rubbish had slowly but surely coated sections of the reef, it could be seen sitting against giant boulder sponges, wrapped around the massive gorgonian fans and was tangled around the stinging fire coral. This is unfortunately a common issue for coral reef systems found so close to large human populations.

The danger isn't just to the corals, often marine creatures will confuse the floating plastic as food and can suffocate on it or suffer internal injuries should they try to consume it.

As the ocean currents move south through the Gulf of Mexico, rubbish is collecting on sections of this barrier reef. A region-wide response is needed to reverse this plastic invasion of the Mesoamerican Reef system.