Mediterranean could become a ‘sea of plastic’, warns WWF

The Mediterranean could become a "sea of plastic", the WWF warned on Friday in a report calling for measures to clean up one of the world's worst affected bodies of water.

Mediterranean could become a 'sea of plastic', warns WWF
Photo: AFP

The WWF said the Mediterranean had record levels of “micro-plastics,” the tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres (0.2 inches) in size which can be found increasingly in the food chain posing a threat to human health.

“The concentration of micro-plastics is nearly four times higher” in the Mediterranean compared with open seas elsewhere in the world, said the report, “Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from Plastic Pollution.”

The problem, as all over the world, is simply that plastics have become an essential part of our daily lives while recycling only accounts for a third of the waste in Europe.

Plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and on its beaches, with most coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, the report said.

To tackle the problem, there has to be an international agreement to reduce the dumping of plastic waste and to help clear up the mess at sea, the WWF said.

All countries around the Mediterranean should boost recycling, ban single-use plastics such as bags and bottles, and phase out the use of micro plastics in detergents or cosmetics by 2025.

The plastics industry itself should develop recyclable and compostable products made out of renewable raw materials, not chemicals derived from oil.

Individuals too have their role to play, making personal choices such as to use combs or kitchen utensils made of wood, not plastic, the WWF said.

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Malta takes migrants rescued by Spanish fishermen: aid group

Eleven migrants stranded in the Mediterranean for 10 days have been taken in by Malta after an appeal by the captain for help, a Spanish aid group said Sunday.

Malta takes migrants rescued by Spanish fishermen: aid group
A file photo of the harbour of Marsa in Malta. Photo: AFP

Proactiva Open Arms, which helped the “Nuestra Madre Loreto” Spanish fishing vessel rescue the migrants, said Valletta had agreed to take them in amid worsening sea conditions.

“#NuestraMadreLoreto has completed the transfer to Maltese coastguard and the 11 rescued people will disembark shortly in safe harbour #Malta,” it said on Twitter.

Twelve migrants from Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Senegal and Egypt were rescued off the coast of Libya on November 22nd. One was later evacuated by helicopter after falling seriously ill from dehydration.

The migrants had originally set out from Libya and were found drifting in a rubber dinghy in Maltese waters. Spain had tried to get Tripoli to take them back, and was in talks with Italy and Malta too.

But Pascual Dura, captain of the aid vessel sheltering them, told AFP on Tuesday that both Rome and Valletta had refused to let them dock.

“I cannot sail north and south, east and west, fleeing bad weather, without having an answer. I cannot believe it's not possible to find these people shelter,” he said in a radio message on Saturday, according to Proactiva Open Arms.

The UN's human rights body repeated in September its view that Libya was “not meeting the criteria for being designated as a place of safety for the purpose of disembarkation following rescue at sea”.

The UNHCR pointed to the volatile security situation in the crisis-hit North African country as well as the particular risks for asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants who are often held in substandard detention conditions.

Abuse of migrants is widespread following the chaos which has reigned since the 2011 ousting of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Many of those intercepted or rescued at sea find themselves held in prison-like centres, or are sold by traffickers.

Shortly after Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez came to power in June, Spain welcomed the Aquarius charity-run rescue ship and its 630 migrants after Italy and Malta refused to harbour the vessel.

Spain also welcomed the Open Arms ship three times, but in September Madrid declined to receive the Aquarius again. Instead it negotiated the distribution of the migrants aboard the ship among several other European Union nations.