Accumulating Plastic Waste in the Ocean Are Killing Coral Reef Ecosystems in Indonesia

- 09 January 2023 22:27 WIB
Illustration of coral reef in Indonesia (Photo courtesy of
Illustration of coral reef in Indonesia (Photo courtesy of

Thania Juliana Felly

When we imagine the ocean as children, our minds would picture a colourful and lively world like the one we see in Finding Nemo.

The thought of small adorable creatures all living in such a beautiful space unlike the usual things we see on land gives us the desire of one day seeing them with our own eyes.

However, the reality is all of us are more alike to Darla, the character of a little human girl shaking Nemo in a plastic bag to wake him up from “sleeping."

If the movie has taught us anything, it would be that animals belong in their natural habitat, away from any danger imposed by us humans, and yet, we have been turning a blind eye to the organisms that provide shelter for more than clown fishes like Nemo; that organism being the corals.

Coral reefs, depicted as the home of Nemo and many other fishes, are found in many areas of the planet, especially Indonesia.

The country is known for its heavenly beaches and is the main attraction for tourists around the world, so it comes as no surprise that coral reefs in the archipelago are understood mainly as a beauty worth seeing. Meanwhile, corals give us much more than that, it also provides us with medicine, income and physical wellbeing.

As an important part of our lives, coral reefs face more dangers than they can handle, in fact, a study done by the Research Center for Oceanography (RCO) on over one thousand of Indonesia’s reefs found that the condition of over 70 percent of Indonesia’s reefs are at a critical level and some even claiming that they have reached “a point of no return."

The poor health of the corals is greatly caused by human activity that continously damages the reefs and the creatures in it through plastic waste.

Human activity such as destructive fishing methods and polluting the ocean with plastic all play a part in producing diseased coral reefs, making them unable to grow or heal. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has stated in their research that the risk of disease on coral reefs increased “from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic," with an estimation of over eleven billion plastic entangled in Asia-Pacific coral reefs.

So now the question is; how do infected corals affect the quality of our lives?

Data provided by the 2017 Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences have shown that corals are used as a component in medicine to curate possible cures for a variety of health concerns including cancer, viruses and arthritis, which means coral reefs have a great importance in making sure that we live a long and healthy life.

Additionally, plastic waste infesting coral reefs pose a great threat to its capability in to grow and provide its benefits.

An example for the use of corals is shown in sunscreen, which unfortunately harms corals in the process of extracting the raw materials, yet gives us protection against skin cancer. To consider the option of antidotes for many illnesses unavailable to us because of our own plastic waste is frightening to say the least.

Indonesia has made efforts to reduce human activities that could harm marine life, but the laws and regulations that support such things only cover a mere 6 percent of Indonesia’s waters, which is somewhat insignificant when compared to the amount of area left unregulated.


Editor: Suksmajati Kumara


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