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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Embassies rally to clean up plastic beach on Abu Dhabi's 'cat island'

Plastic debris in the ocean forecast to rise from 50 million tonnes in 2015 to 150 million tonnes by 2025

The beach clean up at Lulu Island by volunteers. Victor Besa / The National
The beach clean up at Lulu Island by volunteers. Victor Besa / The National

An island home to more than 165 abandoned cats will benefit from a clean-up operation to highlight growing concerns about ocean plastic.

Animal welfare volunteers enlisted the help of ambassadors from Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as UAE government officials to clean up beaches on Lulu Island on Friday.

Currents regularly wash plastic and other rubbish onto the island’s beaches, while visitors and tourists are also guilty of dumping their waste.

When island cats began picking up injuries from discarded fishing lines and hooks, vets who run a trap, neuter and release programme alongside a feeding station on Lulu Island decided to take action.

“Although there is no ferry service to Lulu Island, it still has regular visitors," said Dr Susan Aylott, a volunteer at Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi. "The internal island is closed to the public, but there is access to outside beaches and there has been a gradual build-up of rubbish over the years.

“We’ve been trying to encourage people to take their litter with them after a visit, as most people are not aware of the damage they’re doing.

“The stuff that people leave behind is crazy, they leave tins, cans and a lot of plastic waste.

“It takes a long time to break down in the ocean, if it ever does and is damaging to everyone, not just marine life.

“It is not just about hygiene areas for the community, but for the animals as well.”

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Vets also visited the island to treat some of the cats living on Lulu Island that have not yet been treated. Collected waste will be taken to recycling centres with Tadweer, the Abu Dhabi waste management centre, to reduce the need for landfill.

Those participating in the clean-up included Canadian Ambassador Masud Husain as well as his wife and daughter, Australian Ambassador Arthur Spyrou and New Zealand Deputy Ambassador Rebecca Wood who were asked to get involved via social media.

“We’re delighted to be out on one of Abu Dhabi’s beautiful islands, doing our bit to protect and enhance the local environment,” said Mr Husain.

“The UAE is home to so many Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens and in this Year of Zayed we are keen to give back and help to instil Sheikh Zayed’s values of environmentalism and charity across our own and the wider community.”

A cat pictured during the clean up at Lulu Island. Victor Besa / The National
A cat pictured during the clean up at Lulu Island. Victor Besa / The National

A new UK report, titled The Future of the Sea, has forecast that the total amount of plastic debris in the ocean will rise from 50 million tonnes in 2015 to 150 million tonnes by 2025.

The findings, published by the Government Office for Science, recommends focusing on preventing plastic from entering the ocean and introducing bio- degradable varieties.

It has waned that bacteria like E-coli can build up on plastic litter in coastal waters, increasing the risk of infections to swimmers.

Shellfish can also be contaminated, with crabs exported from Britain to China found to be contaminated with cadmium, that can be damaging to the kidneys, hormones and skeletal systems.

Divers who have witnessed the amount of rubbish in the seas and the damage it is causing to the environment have established a Swim for Clean Seas event at Saadiyat Island in April to encourage more people to take responsibility for the state of the oceans around the UAE.

“Recently we travelled to Abu Dhabi for a full week of swimming and some scuba diving and what we saw under the water surprised us,” said Almer Agmyren, managing director Rex Real Estate, who is helping organise the Swim for Clean Seas.

“We could see the coral dying, a lack of fish and a lot of plastic waste floating around. We all love the sea and it forms such an important part of all of our existence.

“People don’t really fully understand how important it is that we all take immediate action to help curb the rampant pollution of disposable plastic and the ways in which it is affecting the health of our seas.”

To sign up for the Swim for Clean Seas event at Saadiyat Island on April 6, visit premieronline.com.