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"Is Plastic already a part of Paradise."

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

The magical paradise of Coiba National Park of Panama in the Pacific Ocean. Someone once said to me that, “Plastic is now a feature of paradise and that we will just have to get used to it.” This comment has never left my thoughts and has truly played with me for years, even though it has been true in so many locations around the world on our travels, our time here in Coiba has truly shown just how much effect plastic is having in uninhabited, rural and non accessible locations. Coiba may be close enough to the main land that day trips and some charter vessels pass through however from Panama City it is a 4 hour drive to the closest town, Santa Catalina. From here it is another one and a half to two hour boat ride. The town is a dive and surf location so is not large and can’t hold many people. The next town which has the famous Humbolt spear fishing company opporating out of her and that is eight hours drive from Panama City, however with these guys you get to camp on a crocodile inhabited island, so at least you are located there for a few days before the drive back in. And from what we have seen, met and heard both town as very proud of their asset (the national park) and are defiantly not involved with the plastic issues present here and do what they can to minimize it.

Coiba and her surrounding park islands are picture perfect, they hold every ticked box for everyone if ask to describe a paradise islands including extreme amounts of fresh water pouring out of them, the life on the islands and around in the waters is vibrant, healthy and exciting to be around. However the sear abundance of plastic from bottles, bottle tops, shoes and all other kinds of broken up plastic litters the shore lines of the high water mark and into the tree line. Acadia crew and I set aside an hour during a planned beach walk while the team were diving to do a beach clean. We grabbed our 100 liter mesh bags and were dropped off on the stunning shore of the northern beach of Jicarita Island, a magical little islands south of the chain. It was low water and we were welcomed with a huge white sand beach, shells the size of my hand, paradise birds all arounds and turquoise water with a huge expense of Rock pools and beach for 2 miles to the east and 1 to the west. As we admired this magical place it took less than 10 steps up the beach before we had a variety of bottle tops and small shards of plastic that filled out hands. We placed down our kit at the top of the beach and walked to the tree line. The photo to the below was a 3 meter by 3 meter area which filled the 100 liter mesh bag by itself in minutes. The sad and frustrating fact was that for the next two miles we walked the entire tree line was no different, the beach had every color bottle top scattered across it and even if we had had an arm and 100 times the mesh bags we would have not been able to clean up with beach. The sad fact was that the shear break down of some of the shoes showed they had been located there a while, however finding that some had the roots and branches grown through them was even more proof that they had been there for a long time. Of course there is a lot of waste that washes off the Panamanian shores however with only 4 million population and most living in rural areas once out of panama city this is not only the locals, this is a global issues that is proven but the fact that some products are logged with Asia logos, directions and writing, there is not Spanish or other language. We took what ever we could aboard with us not just here but through out our expedition in coiba. We explored mangroves for crocodiles and came back with a bags full, we drove the tender into shallower waters and would come back with more, there was not one beach, one tender ride, beach walk or dive were the tender did not come back with a variety of plastic waste. So in conclusion, Plastic is now part of Paradise, an interesting team we connected with was the all female ExXpeditionTeam sailing around the world for the next two years studying and working on remote and rural areas with the direct focus on plastic and its presence in our worlds oceans. We look forward to their impact on local and global awareness and was great meet while both in Panama City on route to our destiantions.

by Captain, Guy Dodwell SY Acadia.

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