Monday 25 January 2016

Plastic to outweigh fish in oceans by 2050, study warns

The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2016

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - Plastic rubbish will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to recycle the material, a report warned on Tuesday on the opening day of the annual gathering of the rich and powerful in the snow-clad Swiss ski resort of Davos.

An overwhelming 95 per cent of plastic packaging worth US$80-120 billion (S$115-170 billion) a year is lost to the economy after a single use, said a global study by a foundation fronted by yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur, which promotes recycling in the economy.

Our oceans: Fish vs. plastic
Time for your weekly "Get it? Got it! Good."
Posted by CNN International on Friday, January 22, 2016

The study, which drew on multiple sources, proposed setting up a new system to slash the leaking of plastics into nature, especially the oceans, and to find alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.

At least eight million tonnes of plastics find their way into the ocean every year - equal to one garbage truckful every minute, said the report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which included analysis by the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment.

"If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050," it said, with packaging estimated to represent the largest share of the pollution.

Available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today.

"In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish," it said.

"This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy," said Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, the hosts of the annual talks in Davos who jointly released the report.

"To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector and civil society all need to mobilise to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy," he said.

A sweeping change in the use of plastic packaging would require cooperation worldwide between consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers, businesses involved in collection, cities, policymakers and other organisations, said the report.

It proposed creating an independent coordinating body for the initiative.

"Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy with unbeaten properties. However, they are also the ultimate single-use material," said Martin Stuchtey of the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment.

"Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry," he added.

Re-usable plastics could become a valuable commodity in a "circular economy" that relied on recycling, Stuchtey said.

"Our research confirms that applying those circular principles could spark a major wave of innovation with benefits for the entire supply chain," he said.

$80-120 billion is lost across the #plastics economy each year. Now is the time to shift to a New Plastics Economy. Download our latest report here:
Posted by Ellen MacArthur Foundation on Thursday, January 21, 2016

Less fish in the sea than we think: Study
Global catches from 1950 were 50% higher than reported and stocks may be running low
The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

PARIS • The global fisheries catch has been underestimated by more than half since 1950, with tens of millions of tonnes unreported every year, said a study, warning that stocks may be running low.

About 109 million tonnes of fish were caught in 2010 - 30 per cent higher than the 77 million tonnes reported to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), according to the study on Tuesday.

This meant that about 32 million tonnes of catch went unreported that year, "more than the weight of the entire population of the United States", said a research duo from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

In the peak fishing year of 1996, the FAO had documented a global catch of 86 million tonnes. In fact, it was closer to 130 million tonnes, according to the research published in Nature Communications.

"The world is withdrawing from a joint bank account of fish without knowing what has been withdrawn, or the remaining balance," said the study's lead author Daniel Pauly.

For the study, Dr Pauly and his colleague, Dr Dirk Zeller, compiled a "catch reconstruction", combining FAO data with estimates of figures countries generally excluded from their official reports. These included small-scale commercial or subsistence fishing, recreational or illegal fishing, and discarded by catch.

The pair of researchers, backed by a team of 100 collaborators from more than 50 institutions, relied on academic literature, industrial fishing statistics, local fisheries experts, law enforcers, coastal communities and tourist catch data.

"We find that reconstructed global catches between 1950 and 2010 were 50 per cent higher than data reported to FAO suggests," the authors wrote.

They called for more robust reporting and monitoring of catches.

"This groundbreaking study confirms that we are taking far more fish from our oceans than the official data suggests," commented Mr Joshua Reichert, vice-president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which supported the work.

"It's no longer acceptable to mark down artisanal, subsistence or bycatch catch data as zero in the official record books."

The team also found that the annual catch has been declining since 1996 at a much faster rate than suggested by FAO data. And rather than the result of catch quotas, the trend may point to stocks running low, Dr Pauly said.

The FAO had reported the catch shrinking by about 380,000 tonnes per year from 1996 to 2010, but the reconstructed data pointed to a decline of 1.2 million tonnes per year.

The drop was mainly in large, commercial fishing - which accounted for 73 million tonnes in 2010, combined with "gradually reduced" levels of discarded bycatch - to about 10.3 million tonnes per year on average.

But small-scale artisanal catches are on the rise - from about 8 million tonnes in the early 1950s to 22 million tonnes in 2010.

Subsistence fisheries caught about 3.8 million tonnes per year between 2000 and 2010, and the global estimate for recreational catches is a million tonnes per year.

The team conceded that, as with data submitted to the FAO, their reconstruction "implies a certain degree of uncertainty".

Nevertheless, "these new estimates provide countries with more accurate assessments of catch levels than we have ever had", said Mr Reichert.

The FAO said there were concerns about a few "technical elements" of the study, but it agreed with the basic conclusions.


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