Divers in Greece’s Aegean Sea have pulled out thousands of plastic bags from the seabed, dubbing it a “gulf full of plastic corals”.
Much of the rubbish is thought to have been there for eight years after a landfill collapsed into the sea off the island of Andros following heavy rain in 2011.
Divers and environmentalists have been clearing the seabed of plastic this month.
Images they have taken show pollution including plastic bags and bathroom appliances on the seabed, with marine wildlife being forced to live and move amongst it.
Arabella Ross, a volunteer diver with Aegean Rebreath, a group founded in 2017 to carry out underwater and coastal clean-up, said: “It was a very scary thing to see.
“It really shook me and I think it really shook everyone who saw it.”
The group picked out the plastic bags that had become tangled in the reefs on the seabed, that were swaying amongst the fish.
It was “like the paradise of the Caribbean Sea, where you find coral reefs everywhere of every colour. It was the exact same thing, but instead of corals it was bags,” Ms Ross said.
She added that the team only managed to clean up a small fraction of the waste.
The divers also pulled 300kg of old fishing nets from the bed near Andros, as well as from near the island of Salamina, close to Athens
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Mediterranean is one of the most polluted seas in the world, adding that Greece produces about 700,000 tonnes of waste every year – equivalent to 68kg per person.
Around 11,500 tonnes of the waste ends up in its seas annually, and almost 70% of that ends up back on its coastline.
Delivering a warning to the Greek people, Ms Ross said: “If people are wondering where their rubbish ends up, we see it each time we go into the water.”