JAKARTA: The waters off the Indonesian resort island of Bali turned into a sea of rubbish on Saturday (Mar 3) after ocean currents brought in a deluge of plastic waste.
A video uploaded on Facebook and YouTube by diver Rich Horner shows the Briton swimming through water filled with plastic bags, plastic wrappers and other plastic detritus.
“The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc ... Oh, and some plastic,” wrote Horner in his Mar 3 Facebook post.
“Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!"
Horner was swimming at Manta Point on the island of Nusa Penida, which is located about 20km from the popular tourist island of Bali.
As its name suggests, Manta Point is an area where manta rays and other aquatic life frequently gather to be cleaned of parasites by smaller creatures.
But only one lonely manta was filmed swimming in the sea of plastic waste, which in some areas had coagulated on the surface to form a sort of plastic cloud.
“Surprise, surprise, there weren't many Mantas there at the cleaning station today ... They mostly decided not to bother,” wrote Horner, noting that while divers see a few clouds of plastic during the wet season, this was the first time he had seen a plastic slick of this scale.
Studies indicate that Indonesia is the world's second-biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and that about 1.29 million metric tonnes is estimated to be produced annually by the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.
The waves of plastic flooding into rivers and oceans have been causing problems for years - clogging waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, and injuring or killing marine animals who ingest or become trapped by plastic packaging.
The problem has grown so bad that officials in Bali declared a "garbage emergency" late last year.
Horner noted that although most of the labelling on the plastic waste was in Indonesian, it is possible that some of the plastic could have been from other countries in Southeast Asia, travelling for hundreds or thousands of kilometres along the ocean currents.
But he said that when divers returned on Sunday, the inorganic slick had already drifted on, “continuing on its journey, off into the Indian Ocean, to slowly break up into smaller and smaller pieces, into microplastics. But not going away".