Hey friends! So this post is a quite different to what I normally blog about, but I felt compelled to tell the story of my visit to Raja Ampat, a regency in West Papua, Indonesia that truly is “the last paradise.” Aside from its natural beauty, what shocked me the most was to find so much trash on the pristine beaches of this environmentally protected area.
*Almost* unspoiled beauty
If you’ve never heard of Raja Ampat, it’s a collection of 1,500 tiny islands located in the “Coral Triangle,” one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. This place is also one of the BEST dive and snorkel sites in the world precisely because the coral reefs here house the widest array of marine species.
It’s truly a gem of a place and the last of its kind.
When I first learned about the Bird’s Head Seascape which belongs to the Raja Ampat Regency, I was determined to visit this incredible place. I knew, someday, somehow, I was going to step foot on the powdery white sands and swim in the crystal clear waters of this paradise. Of course, diving here would have been absolutely incredible!
Little did I know that only six months after announcing to the universe that I would travel to Raja Ampat, that I would actually end up visiting this incredible wonder of nature! I really couldn’t believe I would get to cross this ultimate destination off my bucket list! Unfortunately, diving was not in the cards since I was really just there to work… but I know I’ll be back to do some diving there another time.
We visited a few islands in this region including Misool, Waigeo, Waisai, and Kri. I was in awe of the limestone rock formations covered by lush vegetation surrounded by pools of the clearest water I had ever seen. As I mentioned, the islands of Raja Ampat are under protection and conservation by several international organizations. They see to it that the local and international communities protect this precious ecosystem.
Despite the conservation efforts taking place in this region, plastic debris are found on practically every beach. Most of the trash that ends up in the ocean travels from hundreds of kilometers away, and about 80% of marine trash originates on land. Some of the debris ends up on our beaches, washed in with the waves and tides. Some debris sinks, some is eaten by marine animals that mistake it for food.
Seeing all the trash was disheartening, to put it lightly. According to the Plastic Disclosure Project, a project run by a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, they estimate that 33 percent of plastic manufactured worldwide is used once, then discarded. And around 85 percent of the world’s plastic is not recycled.
Sadly, plastic pollution is not the only thing causing harm to our oceans, but I will cover other issues in another post because this is already getting too long!
How you can help
So, what can we do to prevent trash from reaching the ocean? You, as an individual, have the power to reduce your waste, eliminating single-use plastics, consuming less packaged products, and recycling properly whenever possible. Also, the next time you visit the beach, be a nice human, pick up some trash, and dispose of it safely so that it doesn’t end up back in the ocean.
There are hundreds of resources online where you can get information on the state of our oceans and what you can do to help rescue them. I encourage you to take a look at the following resources:
- Conservation International: Blog posts on oceans
- National Geographic article on Ocean Trash
- Take 3 For the Sea organization
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
I hesitated writing about this issue many times. Mostly because I’m not an expert in ocean pollution and am not a marine biologist. But I think we all have a responsibility to speak up about issues that are important to us, and if I can help others get informed and involved, then I can feel just a little bit better about the fate of humanity.
I also debated posting this article now, given the current global situation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests over racial injustice, and the continued climate crisis, it is overwhelming how much work needs to be done to transform our society into a fair, just, and safe one. I know everyone is struggling with their own personal issues, but if we all came together as one unified society, I’m sure we can achieve a better world for every living species.