Peruvian fish swimming in a trash vortex? Eating healthy and plastic-free becomes a challenge for Lima residents

Residents of Peru’s capital, Lima, are increasingly at risk of eating fish that have ingested plastic filaments or particles floating in the Andean nation’s coastal waters, said the Environment Ministry’s Vice-Minister of Strategic Development and Natural Resources Vanesa Vareau.

“We are speaking of fish that we eat, of birds that eat these fish and an entire chain, of a cycle of life,” Barra told Radio Programas radio. “Our marine flora and fauna is greatly deteriorated, especially because of all the solid waste that ends up in the ocean.”

“There are less and less (species of birds) and the pelican has almost disappeared,” added Vareau. “It has been replaced by vultures attracted by the solid waste the ocean sweeps to the shore. Turtles often mistake (plastic) for algae and this is harmful to them.”

The ocean around Lima is polluted, argued Vereau, and beaches are increasingly becoming unfit for swimming. In the Callao’s Carpayo Beach, for example, the tide brings in loads of trash from the huge city of Lima, where approximately 8 million Peruvians live.

The Municipality of Callao picks up the trash littered on its beaches once a month, said José Galloso, also from the Environment Ministry. But, he said, “this year the amount of trash (that washes up) has increased by 50 percent in comparison to last year.”

But, the larger items washed ashore are only the visible signs of a much larger problem.

Under the influence of sunlight, wave action and mechanical abrasion plastics – which are non biodegradable – break down slowly into ever smaller particles. “A single one litre (drinking bottle) can break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world,” reports Greenpeace.

It has been estimated that more than a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement, which also act as a sort of “chemical sponge,” by concentrating many of the most damaging contaminants found in the world’s oceans. Fish who eat these plastic filaments, as well as the humans who consume them, also take in highly toxic pollutants.

According to Greenpeace, approximately 100 million tons of plastic are produced each year of which about 10 percent ends up in the ocean. And, if approximately 20 percent is generated by ships and ocean platforms, the rest is thrown into the ocean from land.

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