Manila: An American scientist based in the Philippines is raising awareness about the urgent need to protect the country’s waters from plastic pollution through a museum he operates.
The Philippines ranks as the third largest contributor of plastic waste to global waters, after Indonesia and China, according to the NGO Ocean Conservancy.
American marine biologist Darrel Blatchey has been living in Davao City for years.
In 2012, he established the D’Bone Collector Museum in the city to spread the message of environmentalism.
“We as a museum do not only aim to educate, but also to practice what we preach,” he said in a Facebook post on the D’Bone Collector Museum page.
The three-level museum measuring 750 square metres has over 6,500 specimens on display making it the largest collection of its kind in the Philippines.
Other than showcasing skeletons of creatures through his museum, among Blatchey’s foremost advocacies as a marine biologist is his campaign against plastic pollution.
“We all know it is hard to eliminate plastic usage these days but our goal for now is to lessen it and help save what we can save still,” he said.
The Philippines has been battling growing volumes of ocean plastic waste, the most common forms of which include food packaging, candy wrappers, plastic straws and bottles.
The country’s so-called “sachet economy” is also being blamed for the proliferation of plastics.
Companies package almost any consumer item in single-use sachets — from instant coffee, soap, shampoo, cooking oil, food seasoning and even toothpaste.
But this plastic packaging are turning up where they do not belong — and are costing the life of living creatures.
Last March, a juvenile Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) got beached in the village of Cadunan in Mabini, Compostella Valley, several dozen kilometres away from Davao City.
The creature eventually died a day after it was beached but when Blatchley sliced open the stomach to conduct an autopsy, he was shocked to see huge amount of plastic detritus.
Blatchley said nearly 40 kilogrammes of plastic was inside the 4.7-metre sea mammal.
“We pulled out the first bag, then a second. By the time we hit 16 sacks — on top of the plastic, snack bags and big tangles of nylon ropes, I was like, ‘Seriously?’” Blatchley was quoted in an article published by the National Geographic.
Blatchley said during this decade alone, 62 whales and dolphins have already died the Davao City area. He said at least 47 of the deaths can be blamed on plastic products.
According to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Filipinos need to change their mindsets on plastics.
“Plastic pollution continues to poison our oceans and injure marine life. When not properly disposed, they clog waterways and cause flooding,” he said.
Blatchley said: “It’s clear that we need to stop plastic at the source. Not only is plastic killing marine wildlife; it’s also killing us as well.”