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Devastating Footage of Plastic Pollution to be Shown on Blue Planet II

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BBC / Blue Planet II

In what is sure to become one of the most iconic images from the BBC's Blue Planet II, Sir David Attenborough narrates about the problems of plastic pollution as a sperm whale attempts to eat a discarded plastic bucket.

 ‘Industrial pollution and the discarding of plastic waste must be tackled for the sake of all life in the ocean,' says Sir David.

In the season finale, shown this Sunday at 8pm on BBC1 in the UK, Sir David will speak directly to the problems caused by the estimated eight million tonnes of plastic that finds its way into the world's oceans each year.

The footage is somewhat unusual in that Sir David and his production team tend to steer clear of conservation issues in such programmes preferring instead to celebrate the natural world. Indeed, the sequence in Episode 4, 'The Big Blue', in which the loss of 17,000 rubber ducks from a cargo ship in 1992 was narrated with an undertone of humour as it served to demonstrate the scale and distribution of oceanic currents.

In the season finale, however, the tone is very different. 'Since its invention some hundred years ago,' narrates Sir David, 'plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives. But every year, some eight million tonnes of it ends up in the ocean. And there, it can be lethal.'

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BBC / Blue Planet II

Mark Brownlow, one of the producers of Blue Planet II explained how the production team had deliberated about the message they were sending but came to the conclusion that 'we just couldn't ignore it - it wouldn't be a truthful portrayal of the world's oceans.' He said. 'We are not out there to campaign. We are just showing it as it is and it is quite shocking.'

Brownlow also stated that much of the footage they had filmed was 'too upsetting' to be shown in the programme.

Another sequence has Lucy Quinn, of the British Antarctic Survey Team, describing the devastating effects that plastic waste is having on seabirds, as she explains how a  plastic bag was the cause of death of the albatross, whose carcass lies next to her.

Collecting large plastic bags that have been regurgitated by the fledgeling birds, she explains that also some birds have been able to bring the plastic back up, others have not been so lucky. Showing a collection of plastic pieces that have been found around the nests, she points out that '[these] are just the ones we happened to find', she says. 'There'll be many more that we never see being brought back'

'Our mission in the final episode of the series was two-fold - to feature stories that would both highlight the immense challenges our oceans face and offer hope for a healthy future ocean, ' explains Orla Doherty, series producer for Blue Planet II. 'Working with ocean scientists around the world, we wanted to go further and deeper into the lives of some of the best-loved characters from the series, to show how our choices and actions are impacting them.'

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