The first part of “Microplastics: A Macro Disaster,” a documentary video series on the effects of microplastics on whale sharks in the Maldives and supported by the Save Our Seas Foundation has been released.

Project leaders Alina Wieczorek and Guilia Donati are looking into how whale sharks in the Maldives are scooping up microplastics as they feed and trying to figure out where these plastics might be coming from.

The video shows how the people of the Maldives now value whale sharks for the income generated by tourism, but with the growing threat of plastic pollution in the oceans, “how is it affecting this gentle, filter-feeding ocean giant?

Ibrahim Shameel from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program says that since shark fishing has been banned since the early 1990s, just about everyone on the island “now sees whale sharks as a way of income and economic growth for the island.”

“So pretty much everybody is involved in some form of whale shark tourism, either by a guest house or running a boat or by running a dive center. It’s estimated that about 75,000-85,000 people come to the Maldives just to see the whale sharks, which is a huge number because it accounts for about 3 percent of the shark tourism worldwide, and it’s about US$8 million to $10 million coming in through whale shark tourism alone.”

Wieczorek, a marine biologist, says that even though hunting whale sharks in the Maldives is no more, there is a new threat, plastics and microplastics in particular:

“We know that microplastics can cause immense harm to marine species. The plan for this project and with our data and findings is we want to really go beyond this scientific publishing and just staying in this small, scientific community because you need to bring those findings to people who can actually make a change, which are different stakeholders but also the community. I think people need to be aware.”

For more info, check out the video below or go to saveourseas.org.

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