Freedom Charles releases a turtle back into the sea

Charles: Plastic's On The Menu - Prince Charles warns: 

Every piece of sea-caught fish that you eat may contain plastic. 

Prince Charles warned yesterday that ‘plastic is now on the menu’ as almost every fish caught for the dinner table contains refuse dumped in our oceans.

He attacked the damaging effects of the ‘throw-away, convenience lifestyles of many around the world’, which sees eight million tonnes of plastic waste entering seas and oceans each year. 

He also criticised ‘perverse’ global fisheries subsidies, which encourage excessive and unregulated fishing, further depleting stocks. 

Calling for urgent action, Charles said: ‘All the plastic that we have produced since the 1950s that has ended up in the ocean is still with us in one form or another, so that wherever you swim there are particles of plastic near you and we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic. 

'Plastic is indeed now on the menu!’

Charles was speaking at the Our Oceans Conference in Malta, where he helped to release a loggerhead turtle back into the sea after it had been treated after swallowing a piece of plastic. He used his speech to launch a Blue Economy Initiative, a collaboration between the Prince's International Sustainability Unit (ISU) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), which aims to encourage investment and policies that protect the oceans.

Charles said it was time for ‘bold action’, adding: ‘I’m afraid I really do wonder if the ocean’s fragility is yet truly grasped and how susceptible it is to the impacts of our economic activities?

‘We must act now. How, otherwise, will future generations ever forgive us for destroying the viability of the natural world that is our ultimate sustainer?’  

Charles said the extent of the problem was ‘enormous, systemic and inter-related’, but he was optimistic that attempts made to stem the flow of plastics into the seas over the past decade would continue and increase. 

He said: ‘With some brave decisions, the ocean can recover its health and by doing so generate employment and economic growth. Will there, at last, be a realisation that this small, beautiful blue dot of a planet may have been misnamed? It is not earth, it is actually mostly sea and we are utterly reliant upon it. 

Charles also highlighted the need to take ‘equally far-sighted steps’ to deal with ‘over-exploitative fishing’.

He said: ‘Surely the time is long overdue for taking a thorough, global look at perverse fisheries subsidies and their effects – particularly where they appear to contribute to overfishing, over-capacity and to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing? 

‘Can it be right to argue on the one hand that our ocean must be protected while, on the other, activities that cause harm to the ocean should be subsidised?’  

The heir to the throne said he believed it was ‘utterly crucial’ to create what he described as a ‘circular’ economy, which allows plastics to be recovered, recycled and reused instead of created, used and then thrown away. 

'On our increasingly crowded planet this economic approach has to be a critical part of establishing a more harmonious relationship between humankind and the ocean that sustains us all.' 

He said: ‘If the unprecedented ferocity of recent catastrophic hurricanes is not the supreme wake-up call that it needs to be in order to address the vast and accumulating threat of climate change and ocean warming, then we – let alone the global insurance and financial sectors – can surely no longer consider ourselves as part of a rational, sensible civilisation.’ 

Charles said, ‘Fish are eating what they think are plankton and in fact it turns out to be plastic so it all comes back into the food chain.’ He said many ‘marvellous’ manufacturers were trying to develop alternatives to plastic, but added: ‘People go to the supermarket and complain bitterly there isn’t a piece of plastic between each slice of smoked salmon or whatever it is. The difficulty is what do you have instead of that? 

‘There are alternatives beginning but they are apparently not yet good enough.’

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