China, Vietnam main sources of litter on Dongsha Island: research

Taipei, Research conducted by Academia Sinica scholars on Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Island in the South China Sea indicates huge amounts of ocean litter reach the remote island every year, with China and Vietnam the main points of origin.

China and Vietnam contributed 47.5-63.7 percent of litter along the coast of Dongsha every month, said Academia Sinica research fellow Jeng Ming-shiou (???) at a press conference in Taipei Wednesday.

Jeng was publicizing the results of research his team conducted on Dongsha from 2012-2016 tracking the origin of ocean litter in waters surrounding Taiwan and seeking to determine what causes drifting waste to gather in certain areas.

The research was aimed at "establishing a scientific foundation for plastics management and marine sustainability."

Although ocean litter is rapidly becoming a major environmental concern there has been limited quantitative and regular observation or tracking of its origins, according to a statement from the Biodiversity Research Center under Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute, on the ocean litter research.

Jeng said that by taking monthly samples over a five-year period (2012-2016), his team found that several hundred kilograms of ocean litter reach Dongsha annually.

Styrofoam and plastic bottles are the two primary sources of litter, Jeng said at a briefing for the press.

Academia Sinica assistant research fellow Hsin Yi-chia (???), a member of Jeng's team, indicated that ocean current and seasonal winds were found to be the two main factors determining the destination of ocean litter in the South China Sea.

Moreover, it was concluded that 40 percent of ocean litter travels on the oceans for months increasing the likelihood that it impacts marine ecology, Hsin said.

Echoing Hsin, Jeng said the government's plastics reduction policy had resulted in an observable decline in levels of ocean litter on Dongsha and Penghu Islands in Taiwan Strait.

In Southeast Asia, marine plastic waste was apparently worse due to the increasing use of plastics amid rising economic development.

Jeng said, the aim of the research is to encourage governments around the world to promote ocean litter management programs both regional and global.

Using a backward-tracking model simulation, Jeng's team found that litter in the Western Philippine Sea, i.e. through the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines, is an important contributor to the volume of litter on Dongsha from October to March, whereas the litter mainly comes from China and Vietnam from April to September.

With increased windage, litter from the Taiwan Strait is predicted to be an additional potential major source, according to the research abstract, titled "Monitoring multi-year macro ocean litter dynamics and backward-tracking simulation of litter origins on a remote island in the South China Sea."

The report was published in the international journal, Environmental Research Letters, on April 3.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel