'Garbage island' will take 10 days to clear

'Garbage island' will take 10 days to clear

Staff of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources check fish nets that will be used to collect garbage from the sea off Prachuap Khiri Khan. (Photo by Chaiwat Satyam)
Staff of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources check fish nets that will be used to collect garbage from the sea off Prachuap Khiri Khan. (Photo by Chaiwat Satyam)

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN: The huge floating garbage island in the Gulf of Thailand is largely plastic waste and a threat to marine life, according to authorities who say it will take 10 days to clear.

The trash slick was located again by an aerial survey on Friday, 10 kilometres away from its position on Thursday. It is now drifting between Koh Talu in Bang Saphan Noi district and a headland of Ao Mae Ramphueng in Bang Saphan district. Koh Talu is a popular shallow-water dive site in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

Authorities estimate the floating junk, which was first spotted earlier in the week off Chumphon province and has been drifting northward, weighs 100 tonnes.

Winds have already scattered some of the trash and made collection a more difficult task, said Sopon Thongdee, deputy director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Officials expect to be working in the area for 10 days and will use speedboats and small fishing nets to collect the garbage, he said.

He said he hoped winds and waves would gather the garbage into a single mass to facilitate the operation.

The majority of the garbage consisted of plastic and was harmful to corals and marine life, especially turtles and dolphins that might mistake it for jellyfish and eat it, Mr Sopon said.

When plastic garbage sinks, it could cover and kill coral, he added. "It is necessary to remove the garbage from the sea as soon as possible."

Mr Sopon and his team briefly lost sight of the garbage Friday morning as they were preparing to start their cleanup operation, and a plane was sent up to locate it.

He said the trash might have been debris trapped in water draining off the land after the recent heavy floods, especially from Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon.

He said he believed it was the biggest floating garbage patch ever seen in Thai waters.

Earlier report: Huge floating garbage patch vanishes overnight

The environmental eyesore in the Gulf of Thailand is about one kilometre long and weighs about 100 tonnes. (Photo by the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources)


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