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British Diver Films Himself Swimming Through the Plastic Ocean

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Still from video showing the extent of the plastic cloud cover (Rich Horner)

A British diver has filmed himself - along with a manta ray - swimming through a cloud of plastic waste off the island of Nusa Penida, Bali.

Nusa Penida is the larger neighbour of Nusa Lembongan, a popular tourist destination approximately 15km south-east of the Bali mainland. Penida has become famous for regular sightings of southern mola (Mola ramsayi) at Crystal Bay, and the resident population of reef manta (Mobula alfredi), which is frequently spotted around the southern coast of Penida at popular dive sites such as Manta Bay and Manta Point, where currents drive plankton blooms into the shallow bays on which juvenile manta come to feed.

The video, filmed by British diver Rich Horner, shows a horrific cloud of plastic drifting both at the surface and underwater. Manta rays can usually avoid the larger pieces of plastic, but as filter feeders, they have no way of avoiding the smaller particles of microplastic that are formed as larger pieces disintegrate. The footage also shows a large amount of jellyfish drifting among the detritus, not easy to differentiate from some of the rubbish, and a favourite food of the hawksbill turtles that also inhabit the area.

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Manta swimming through the plastic cloud (Rich Horner)

Indonesia is currently ranked as the second-largest plastic polluting country in the world, much of which finds its way into the ocean through the waterways that cover the island nation. 'I think all the stuff that I have seen has been from Indonesia,' says Rich, commenting on his video, 'but with the Indonesian through-flow current that we have dominating here, it could come from further north, up in the north of South East Asia, perhaps.'

Tourists planning on visiting the island to enjoy diving and snorkelling with the mantas should know that the volume of plastic depicted in the video is not an everyday occurrence, nor so often as dense. 'We see the occasional cloud of it, and it comes and goes with the currents, within a few hours,' says Rich, 'but that was horrifying that amount.' 

Nevertheless, just because it's there one day and gone the next, it's easy to forget that the plastic pollution has not disappeared, it's just moved somewhere else.The prevailing winds and currents around Bali will drive this particular cloud out into the open Indian Ocean, where pieces of it will eventually wash up on some distant shore, or circulate endlessly as they break down into microplastics.

Take a look at the video, and then take a second look at the amount of plastic that surrounds us every day.




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