By Rob Kaplan, forbes.com
As someone who devotes much of my waking hours to helping solve the ocean plastic crisis through private market investment solutions, I am constantly struck by the power of real-life stories to bring this issue to the forefront of the popular consciousness. And there is no question that the stories that have the power to galvanize us more than any others are those that concern the destructive effects of ocean pollution on marine life. Maybe it’s because we all connect in such a visceral way to animals. But the fact is that these stories have a way of putting in starkest terms the effects of ocean pollution on wildlife. The recent horror story of Marium, the baby dugong that died off the shores of Thailand after ingesting some unidentified form of ocean plastic is a case in point. Within days of her death, the news had been widely reported on all over the globe.
But how do we ensure that Marium’s death wasn’t in vain? What can it teach us about how we can protect not just our wildlife but the health of the world’s ocean, our climate and our health and welfare, too?
First, the story of Marium is important because it serves to focus our attention on the regions where the ocean plastic problem is the most acute and which therefore presents the biggest opportunities for workable solutions: south and southeast Asia. Studies show that a 45% global reduction in plastic leakage to the ocean can be achieved by improving waste management and recycling in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and The Philippines.
Second and perhaps even more encouragingly, Marium has become a symbol of ocean conservation. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health announced that it has immediately begun to implement a plan to reduce sea waste. Additionally, the newly formed "Marium Project" will act as a guideline on how to properly care for and rehabilitate dugongs.