In the pristine waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where azure waves meet golden sand beaches, lies a crisis that threatens the very essence of this natural maritime paradise. The ocean plastic problem is a global issue and has even found its way to these idyllic shores, reminding us of the urgent need for care and action. In this blog, we briefly explore the gravity of the situation, emphasizing the potential repercussions if we do not all address this issue properly and swiftly, and also highlight the positive impact of responsible initiatives like the International #WorldCoastalCleanUpDay and ones led locally by Big Blue Collective.

Background: The Global Scale of Ocean Plastic Pollution

It is estimated that globally, 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, wreaking havoc on marine life, coastal ecosystems, and human communities. Much of this garbage floats in massive gyres far offshore, out of sight and out of mind. However, some of this floating debris also washes up on our coastlines. The Turks and Caicos Islands, despite their remote location, the World’s Best Beach, and ‘Beautiful by Nature’ moniker, are not immune to this escalating threat. Plastic pollution not only endangers our vibrant marine biodiversity but also impacts the livelihoods of our local communities and the flourishing tourism industry that these islands depend on.

Our Role at Big Blue Collective

In the face of this considerable local ecological threat, here at Big Blue Collective, we try our best to showcase solutions as beacons of hope. Our commitment to environmental stewardship and conservation over the last 25 years has taken significant strides toward raising awareness about ocean plastic pollution… But we know there is still a long way to go. Through educational programs, beach clean-ups, and sustainable tourism practices like banning single-use plastic from all our trips and facilities, Big Blue Collective actively engages residents and visitors, fostering a sense of shared responsibility towards our environment.

The Consequences of Inaction Are All Too Real

Our planet faces dire consequences if we do not address the ocean plastic problem. 

Marine life suffers. Marine mammals (like whales and dolphins), turtles, fish, and seabirds are all known to ingest bags, lighters, bottle caps, cups, and straws mistaking such items for food. These animals often become entangled in plastic debris or ghost fishing nets, which we have unfortunately encountered around our islands; these scenarios can cause extreme distress, drowning, and starvation. 

Delicate ecosystems, such as coral reefs and mangroves, already face degradation through overfishing, ocean acidification, and warming. Coupled with the global plastic pollution problem, these habitats can become littered with debris, disrupting the balance of the natural world. Since plastic does not biodegrade, it only gets smaller, becoming microplastic particles as it breaks down: which in turn, can infiltrate the food chain, posing an existential potential health risk to humans through the food we eat.

Small Actions, Big Impact: The Best Solution is No Pollution.

The ocean plastic problem can feel daunting, but this situation is not hopeless. The solution begins with everyone: individuals, businesses, communities, and governments. By reducing our daily use of single-use plastics, remembering to recycle diligently, and supporting local initiatives to reduce waste and be responsible environmental stewards, we can all make a significant difference. Every piece of plastic properly disposed of, every beach cleaned, and every person educated about the issue contributes to healing our oceans and keeping our islands beautiful by nature. 

Initiatives like International Coastal Cleanup Day and World Coastal Cleanup Day (spearheaded by top conservation organizations Ocean Conservancy and EarthDay) have great resources for individuals in coastal communities around the globe to learn more about protecting their shores and making positive impacts on the planet. 

Did you know the United Nations even includes reducing marine plastic pollution in their Global Goals for 2030

This year, as part of our own annual coastal clean-up, our team headed out to one of our favourite islands, French Cay, to show her some much-needed love and attention. 

We collected over 40 bags of garbage for five hours, including rubber tires, old fishing nets, and even a car bumper! We will be keeping a close eye on her while planning our next coastal clean-up mission.

A Brighter, Sustainable Tomorrow

As we enjoy diving, snorkeling, or cruising the turquoise waters of our Turks and Caicos Islands, we must remember that our actions today shape the future of this paradise. With a collective commitment to care, awareness, and responsible practices, we can begin to reclaim our oceans from the consequences of plastic pollution.