Disasters & Accidents

Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, where plastic is replacing fish

Maracaibo, Venezuela, May 26 (EFE).- Everto, a fisherman from Venezuela, has been navigating the waters of Lake Maracaibo for over 40 years.

But a lot has changed since he was a young boy.

Unlike four decades ago, he knows that wherever he throws his fishing net today, he will find plastic instead of fish.

“Right now there is too much pollution, we have plastic pollution, we have oil pollution, (…) we have many pollutants that have marginalized us fishermen,” the 51-year-old tells Efe.

Nobody has dared to calculate exactly how much plastic lies in Lake Maracaibo, but according to the Zulia Recicla foundation, it takes 60 volunteers to collect an average of 600 kg of plastic in just 3 hours.

From plastic bags, take-out food containers, shoes, toys, bottles and many other objects, the lake has become a dumpster for Maracaibo’s inhabitants.

The pollution not only harms fishermen but also the potential of Maracaibo as a tourist destination, Nicolino Bracho, research director at Zulia Recicla foundation, says.

If it weren’t for the unpleasant smell coming from the tons of garbage, tourists would come visit the palafitos, colorful houses on the water, in which indigenous communities live, he adds.

“We are all responsible for this contamination (…) we have to separate the waste at the source and take them to collection centers or recycling sites,” Bracho tells Efe.

The waste is also harming marine species who are mistaking polyethylene for food, killing crabs, turtles and seabirds.

Local authorities blame the contamination on the “unconscious throwing of waste by people” into ravines, which have turned into the city’s dumping grounds.

To manage the problem, authorities said they planned to place nets in the ravines to prevent the waste from traveling to the bay.

Everto says it is not enough.

“They should take better care of it because the lake offers a lot, it gives copper, fish, shrimp. The lake gives everything but they don’t give anything to the lake,” he said. EFE


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