by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Coastal cleanup organised by CYEN collected over 2,000 pounds of garbage in 11 of 18 sites targeted
- Alarming number of plastic pieces with potential to further disintegrate into microplastic
- Over 94% of commercially exploited fish in Grenada tested positive for microplastic
There exists an even greater health implication for improper waste disposal other than just polluting the environment.
According to a study conducted in 2016 by the Department of Biology, Ecology, and Conservation, School of Arts and Sciences, of the St George’s University (SGU), there are 7 species of commercially exploited fish in Grenada that have tested positive for the presence of microplastics in their digestive tracts.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics ranging from 5 millimetres to 100 nanometres in diameter. The livers from the following fish were tested for microplastic contaminant:
- Red Snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)
- Red Hind (Epinephelus guttatus)
- Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
- Mutton Snapper (Lutjanus analis)
- Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)
- Blue Runner (Caranx crysos)
- Mahi Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)
- Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)
According to the findings, 42 fish guts were analysed of which 41 samples contained microplastic particles (97.6%), while the other 40 samples contained microplastic fibres (95.2%), and 12 samples contained microplastic film pieces (28.6%). Other findings also suggest that microplastic fibres were the most common type of microplastic found with the greatest number of microplastics were found in a lionfish sample (79 fibres and 1 piece of film). No samples of microplastic were found in the barracuda.
Research Assistant on the project, Marine Biologist, Denzel Adams spoke of the implications this can have on human health if not addressed immediately. “We basically cut open the fish and avoided spilling the stomach contents by removing the gills and everything with the stomach in one piece. Then potassium hydroxide was used to dissolve the contents and the remaining solids were observed under a microscope for microplastics. The implications are that some harmful chemical pollutants adhere to plastics easily. Therefore, the more plastics fish consume then the more harmful chemicals accumulate in their tissues through bioaccumulation. This is potentially harmful for consumers in the case of some pollutants. In the study, over 94% of the commercial fish species consumed in Grenada had microplastics.”
Presenting these findings to members of the media on Thursday, 21 November 2019, during the launch of the Regional Clean Seas Campaign was Kerricia Hobson, National Coordinator of the Grenada Chapter of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN).
The organisation under her stewardship has been responsible for spearheading several cleanup campaigns across the tri-island state as part of International Coastal Cleanup Day, traditionally held each year on the 3rd Saturday in September. Since 1990 Grenada has been a part of the cleanup campaign which has sought to raise public awareness of improper waste disposal and implications for Grenada’s marine ecosystem. This year, 200 volunteers including community groups and schools took part in the International Coastal Cleanup organised by CYEN and collected over 2,000 pounds of garbage in eleven of the 18 sites targeted.
“We don’t just itemise; we weigh the amount of garbage that we collect and we collected over 2,000 pounds of garbage and that does not include things like small home appliances like a refrigerator that we found on the beach. That we just could not weigh because we didn’t have the capacity… and so that tells us that if we probably did cleanups in other areas it’s staggering the amount of garbage that we might have collected,” said Hobson.
Analysis of the garbage collected revealed that the vast majority of pollutants comprise plastic bottles as well as plastic and metal caps and plastic packaging for snacks. But what was most alarming was the number of plastic pieces that had shown potential to further disintegrate into microplastic.
“What was very troubling for us was the number of plastic pieces. So, plastics don’t degrade, they do not disappear from the environment, but rather they break into smaller pieces and we collected so many that were quite small but haven’t finished breaking down into what we call microplastics as yet. If all these bottles, for instance, remain on the beach, their fate might eventually end up as these smaller plastic pieces, but a lot of those small plastic pieces came from things like our single-use plastic bags,” she said.
Among the sites selected for cleanup was Grand Anse beach where a significant amount of garbage was found underwater. It has been observed that the lack of sufficient receptacles to collect trash has contributed towards littering in and around the coastal zone. Since pollution from land-based sources and activities continue to pose a significant risk to human health, it is in this regard that CYEN and the Government of Grenada joined on this global campaign first launched in February 2017 by the United Nations Environment Programme to lobby governments, the public and private sector to combat improper waste disposal.
In the Caribbean, both the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) have partnered to launch the Regional Clean Seas Campaign with the Grenada leg of the campaign spearheaded by CYEN to engage with the public as well as to generate targeted information on coastal pollutions intended to be disseminated to the general public.
Several policy initiatives by government have seen the ban on further importation of Styrofoam with prescribed deadlines for the implementation of banning of other non-biodegradable waste items including the ban on further importation, sale and use of single-use handle plastic bags and sale of food items in or with a single-use plastic shopping bag with handle.
CYEN over the past 15 years continues to play their part by putting youth at the helm of environmental conservation through educational awareness through engagement and participation and lobby and advocacy. In September, the organisation under the Getting Grenada Green Climate Fund Ready (3G) Programme was also able to educate young professionals on the country’s climate change agenda and how to write a proposal when seeking funding for climate-related projects.