Detergent in Oman’s waters could damage marine ecosystems

On Friday night, many divers were shocked to find bags of detergent, many of which lay strewn across the beaches.

Muscat: Tens of thousands of bags of detergent currently piling up off Muscat could cause significant damage to the country’s marine life and ecosystems, according to the country’s diving instructors.

A circular issued by the Environment Authority of Oman said: “Specialists from the Environment Authority have conducted a field survey of these beaches and assessed the environmental situation in regional waters to ensure that they were not affected by pollution. The authority has also coordinated with relevant authorities to join efforts and work to remove litter and clean beaches to restore them to normal.

On Friday evening, many divers exploring the seas with friends or leading tour groups in the water came across a number of bags which the birds were trying to enter. While they initially thought they were buoys left by local fishermen, they were shocked to discover they were actually bags of detergent, many of which lay strewn across the water.

“The detergent has spread as far from Barka in the north as Quriyat in the south, and all the way to the Daymaniyat Islands,” said Abdullah Al Maskari, a diving instructor in Oman. “You can imagine how far this has spread. Detergent is going to cause enormous damage to our ocean ecosystems, so we need to act quickly to remove as much of it as possible.

“Turtles and other sea animals will look at these bags and think they are jellyfish because it is part of their food, and they will try to eat these bags,” he added. “It will cause them a lot of problems. In addition, they could affect the coral formations in the sea, which could have very harmful consequences.

Maskari explained that most marine animals lay their eggs in coral beds which form the bedrock of their life cycle. Additionally, corals mitigate the impact of natural disasters such as hurricanes and storms. “Corals aren’t just there to be beautiful… they’re actually extremely important to our ecosystems,” he said. “Life in the oceans begins in coral beds. Many individuals and ocean divers have come across these bags and picked up everything they can see, but extra steps need to be taken to clean up the spill as soon as possible.

“We don’t know the exact number of bags of detergent at sea, but it’s safe to say they number in the tens of thousands,” Al Maskari said. “The detergent packets were stored in larger packets which, when opened, released hundreds of smaller ones, almost like a cluster bomb, and that amplifies their damage.

“The best way to clean up the detergent would be to allow those packets to get to the shores. They would make nasty pictures, but it would be easier to clean them up that way,” he added. “Once that they have mixed with water and the ocean has claimed it, it will be more difficult to clean it.”

According to the journal “Environment Science and Pollution Research” published by the Chemistry and Environment Division of the European Chemical Society, detergent as a pollutant poses serious risks to natural ecosystems.

Harmful effects of detergents include eutrophication, which occurs when the environment becomes enriched with nutrients, leading to increased growth of plants and algae, which in turn leads to competition for oxygen by marine species; foaming, which could be an indicator of excessive toxins; and altering key parameters such as temperature, salinity, turbidity and pH levels, which are essential for marine organisms that inhabit aquatic environments.

“Therefore, the production of environmentally friendly detergents is a significant issue worldwide,” Seyyed Alireza Mousavi and Farank Khodadoost said in their newspaper article.

It was a view shared by Neil Abbot, a diving officer at PDO’s diving club, who first spotted many bags as he explored the seas off Muscat and headed for the islands. Daymaniyat with a friend on Friday evening.

“A lot of the bags had barnacles attached which meant they had been underwater for quite some time,” he said. “As we continued our journey, we saw more bags floating on the surface of the water. There were probably 100 bags floating, but even worse, when the bags opened up; it was like a minefield. .

“While diving at a site known as Black Top Reef, we started finding broken bottom bags,” he recalls.

“I don’t know what all this washing will do to fish, let alone plastic to turtles, whale sharks, etc.”

Neil and his team recently pulled out a load of bags of detergent on Al Fahal Island and urged others going to sea to clean up the spill as much as possible. He also feared the effect it could have on the livelihoods of fishermen, as well as those who eat their catch.

“If it affects the fish, they will be badly affected by the detergent powder, and if we eat these fish once they are caught by the fishermen, it means that we will eat contaminated fish,” he admitted. “If it kills the fish, then the livelihoods of the fishermen will be affected.”