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Local woman works to protect Indonesian sea life from ocean plastics

Elitza Germanov's favourite ocean species is the threatened Giant Manta Ray

Elitza Germanov

Elitza Germanov is studying the affect of marine plastics on large filter feeders in Indonesia.

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You won't find Elitza Germanov using coffee cup covers or plastic shopping bags. She calls herself a 'Plastic Princess'.

"For me it's always trying to figure out a way to cut out that stuff and refuse the use of single use plastics whenever I can," said Germanov. 

The 33-year-old, who grew up in Newfoundland, is worried about ocean pollution but more specifically how ocean plastics affect her favourite sea creature, the giant manta ray.

Manta Ray eats trash 0:25

Germanov fell in love with that species after years of scuba diving in Indonesia where she now lives. She is also pursuing a PhD from Murdoch University in Western Australia on marine plastic pollution and its effects on large filter feeders.

Manta rays can grow up to five metres in length. They need to filter large quantities of water to get enough food — an estimated 85 tons an hour. If rays ingest too much plastic, their stomachs clog and nutrients aren't absorbed. 

"So far in 100 per cent of the days that I've been out sampling, I've found microplastics or small pieces of plastic mixed in with their natural food source, zoo plankton, so it's very likely that these animals are ingesting plastic as they feed," explained Germanov. 

Germanov says western countries are much further ahead in terms of marine conservation than in Asia.

"Recently there was a global estimate of countries which are contributing the most marine plastic pollution to the sea and Indonesia was ranked second on that list just after China," explained Germanov. "Since then there has been a lot of interest to improve infrastructure and improve plastic waste."

Elitza Germanov

Elitza Germanov is doing a PhD in ocean plastics and how they affect large filters feeders in the ocean.

Germanov is back in St. John's to present her findings at the International Marine Conservation Congress July 30 to Aug. 3 at the Delta Conference Centre.

She said she loves her work and would encourage other young people in Newfoundland and Labrador to pursue a career in marine conservation.

"There are lots of issues facing our environment these days and it's impossible to tackle all of them but if you choose one that you're passionate about and being out in the environment really helps to fuel that fire and help protect a certain animal or habitat that you're interested in helping. I would recommend people get out in nature more," said Germanov.

To hear Elitza Germanov's interview with The Broadcast's Jane Adey, click on the link below.

You can hear The Broadcast weekdays at 6 p.m. and the following day at 1 p.m.

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