A team of 10 divers living in the southern Turkish province of Mersin hopes to contribute to Turkey’s fight against marine pollution. Off the Mediterranean coast of Silifke, they regularly dive into pristine surfaces veiling the man-made pollution.
Along with metal and plastic waste, they pick up ghost nets threatening marine life. All of them are members of a local diving center. A routine dive takes about two hours as they explore the polluted parts of the sea at a depth of some 15 meters (49 feet).
Ertuğrul Çete, who works as a diving instructor, says they used to carry out cleaning work during the busy summer season but now they were doing it year-round. Çete and others also organize awareness programs about pollution.
“I always carry a mesh bag with me when I dive. Wherever I come across a piece of garbage or any other thing that does not belong to the sea, I pick it up. This is what all divers should do. We need to keep the bottom clear,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday. “Plastic bottles, metal cans and ghost nets are particularly dangerous for marine species. Ghost nets are the worst among them. Animals down there get stuck in the nets and perish,” he said after he and fellow volunteers did their routine cleaning work. “We found plenty of ghost nets today and cleared most but we keep seeing them. It is a really big problem,” he said.
Divers say they have discovered a diverse array of garbage and plan to organize an exhibit to raise awareness of the pollution.
Özgün Çağlayan Köse, another volunteer, says every dive meant an encounter with waste. “Plastic bottles are especially dangerous. Some creatures build their nests in the bottles but they are often get trapped there and die. Some fish species try to eat the plastic bags too as they eat the food dumped in bags. We discovered plastic bits inside some caught fish,” Köse said.
Although the Mediterranean constitutes only 1% of the planet's oceans, it is home to more than 17,000 marine species. The sea is home to about 18% of the known marine species in the world, and more than 25% of them are classified as creatures not seen anywhere else in the world. Located in a region that attracts tourists from around the world, the Mediterranean basin faces pressure from a wide array of threats, from increasing seawater temperatures and rising sea levels to a decline in clean water resources, as well as invasive species, acidification of water, solid waste and sewage pollution, urbanization and overfishing.
Plastic pollution at sea is reaching worrying levels and will continue to grow even if significant action is taken now to stop such waste from reaching the world’s oceans, according to a review of hundreds of academic studies. The review by Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, commissioned by the environmental campaign group World Wildlife Fund (WWF), found that some regions, such as the Mediterranean, East China and Yellow seas, already contain dangerous levels of plastic. As plastic breaks down into ever-smaller pieces, it also enters the marine food chain, being ingested in everything from whales to turtles and tiny plankton.