A photo of Carlos Duarte taken during one of his expeditions to the Arctic.
A photo of Carlos Duarte taken during one of his expeditions to the Arctic. / SUR

"The sea will regenerate if we give it some breathing space"

  • Carlos Duarte | Oceanographer

-Is plastic the biggest threat to our seas right now?

-It's the most visible problem but it isn't the most important one. Plastic is the tip of the iceberg of marine contamination. An iceberg has a point sticking up above the surface, but an enormous mass below. Plastic is the point we can see. It's something we can touch and understand, but marine contamination is invisible. I'm talking about chemical components here. That's why plastic makes us aware of marine contamination. If we only concentrate on plastic, we are losing a golden opportunity to act on the problem of marine contamination which is a much bigger one than plastic.

-What exactly do you mean by marine contamination? Sewage being released into the sea, for example?

-I'm referring to all the chemical elements that enter the oceans as a result of human activity. Fertilisers we use in our fields, for example the ones which are used massively in many of the tropical orchards in Malaga. Yes, it also includes organic material released into the sea because of a lack of treatment plants. In Malaga that is a chronic problem. I'm also talking about the detergents we use in our homes, which have toxic components. Nowadays more than 50,000 chemical components are used by different industrial sectors.

-Does the sea have the ability to regenerate itself?

-It has an impressive ability to regenerate, as long as we give it a breathing space to do so. If we give it a break, we can practically recover it completely. The only thing we have to do is adapt a series of rules, and those are easy. We can do it. I want children, in 2050, to be able to enjoy the beaches in Malaga in the same condition as when we used to play there when we were young.