The so-called pollution of the boaters
with their famous "pipi-caca in the lagoon"
and the map of bathing water quality in French Polynesia
Boating in French Polynesia is no exception to the rule: when it comes to stigmatization, it takes 10 seconds to come up with a nonsense, and more than 20 minutes to explain why it is a nonsense.
How can we not look at this map of the quality of bathing water in French Polynesia (islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Bora-Bora, Raiatea and Tubuai) without making a parallel with the yachting activity?
The number 1 reproach made to the yachting in Polynesia is the famous "pipi-caca" which pollutes the lagoons! And this pseudo argument comes up in every debate on yachting, even in the highest decision making spheres. However, it is largely, if not almost, unfounded. Here is why.
Let's avoid immediately the question of "peeing" in the lagoon ... as if only sailboat inhabitants relieved themselves in the lagoons. What about swimmers? And surfers? And the walkers? And the divers ? And the fishermen?
Human urine is said to contain more than 95% water and its sodium and chloride content does not threaten the sea or the plants and animals that live there.
Urea, a component of urine, is not found in the ocean. It is a carbon-based compound that helps the body get rid of nitrogen. The nitrogen in urea, combined with the water in the oceans and seas, allows for the development of ammonium, a compound that serves as food for plants. In fact, one can almost say that peeing in water is good for marine flora and animals.
Moreover, all marine animals also urinate in the ocean. For example, the fin whale produces about 945 liters every day!
About the "poop". Here is its composition in simple terms:
- 75 to 85% water
- 18-22% dehydrated (dry) matter, undigested such as cellulose
- saprophytic germs (which derive useful substances from the decomposition of the material)
- pathogenic bacteria and viruses (which can cause disease)
- dead constituents (cells) of the digestive tract.
So yes, there is that famous "pathogenic bacteria and viruses" part. But again, in chemistry, there is an essential rule that says "What makes the poison is the dose". And this is true for any pollutant. It's all a question of concentration, dilution and dosage. Ciguatera is a very good example.
But in this case, the dilution is enormous.
Moreover, there is a risk from the moment that the supposedly contaminated water is ingested. The probability for an inhabitant to take a good glass of water from the lagoon to drink it remains extremely low! On the contrary, the boater drinks this "contaminated" water, thanks to his watermaker. If it were really polluted by us, would we drink it?
Obviously, the ancestral image of "poop" is prevalent. But we must go beyond it and try to see it from a purely chemical point of view, otherwise the arguments put forward do not go very far, except to stigmatize, but there we come close to stupidity, not to the truth.
Per square kilometer of ocean, fish poop must be counted in tons per day. But of course, as it seems not to be allowed to be clear-sighted and to use common sense, it is the 150 gr of daily poop of the yachtsman that becomes the cause of all the ecological woes of French Polynesia.
The human excrements of one person in one year would contain about 548g of nitrates, 183g of phosphorus and 460g of potassium per person. Most sailboats move throughout the year, so there is no concentration of these elements in one place. And even if the sailboats stay at anchor in the same place, the quality map of the bathing water along the anchorages of Taina marina (Tahiti) and Mareto beach (Moorea) proves that the presence of these sailboats does not bring the expected pollution that some people want to put on the backs of the boaters!
Moreover, "In the case of Tahiti, the EGS concludes that 57% of the water points analyzed are clean for bathing. This means that 43% of the places studied are contaminated by fecal bacteria. Bathing there is therefore a health risk." According to the map, all of the zones incriminated, therefore unfit for bathing, do not have any sailboats in their vicinity. Where does this fecal pollution come from, sufficiently consequent to exceed the authorized doses? From the mouths for the majority, therefore from the interior of the lands and the valleys. Wouldn't it be a mistake to target them?
These are facts. Let our detractors bring proof of the contrary.
The discourse of the Polynesian authorities is oriented towards a so-called "luxury" yachting because sailboats, boats and other liners will be able to pay all the environmental taxes that will be put in place by Polynesia to give themselves a clear conscience: the rich have the money to pay and grant themselves the right to pollute! The environment remains a business.
These types of maritime transport use the worst fuels available. They release sulfur oxide into the air and water. Not to mention that the motorized maritime sector uses a fuel that is much higher in sulfur than those allowed for the automotive sector.
A study published in February 2018 assessed the health consequences of marine pollution. Indeed, large port cities (take Papeete for example) do not only amass tourists, but also fine particles. Maritime transport contributes to 5 to 10% of the air pollution measured in the downtown area of port cities (cruise ships, container ships, ...). Marine fuels will be responsible for more and more premature deaths each year in these cities (250,000 premature deaths on average worldwide while 60,000 were announced a few years ago).
French Polynesia wants to be avant-garde in terms of environment with reflections to try to find solutions for a "green tourism". Obviously, it wishes to privilege luxury tourism (hotels, cruises and yachts) whose carbon footprint is deplorable: about 4 T of CO2 estimated for a normal tourist travelling by plane in Europe, let's imagine the quantity for a tourist coming to French Polynesia considering the means of transport used and the distance, the environmental cost for the construction of the infrastructures welcoming him, ...
And as a result, this same Polynesia is really doing a campaign of slow destruction of the only tourists with almost neutral carbon footprint who pass by (the yachting would bring in 4,77 billion Fxpf per year). All this is done with ecological arguments which are far from the real environmental priorities of French Polynesia at the moment.
Wouldn't it be again a mistake to target?
Let's stop this masquerade with this pseudo "super-ecological" argument of the pee-poo of the boaters in the lagoons. Of course it is a pollution but on the scale of the quantities generated, the dissolution and the concentrations, it represents nothing, or ridiculously little, in the Polynesian lagoons.
But this is not a reason. Certainly.
Let's remember that more than half of the sailboats present in Polynesian waters have black and/or grey water tanks (plus all sailboats built after 2008). For years, the A.V.P. has been asking for the installation of infrastructures in ports and marinas to empty these tanks. Obviously, the competent authorities here in Polynesia are willing to copy the tariffs for anchorages in the Mediterranean but do not seem ready to copy the implementation of a recovery service for black water tanks. There are projects, but no acts on the horizon.
In the meantime, yachting is stigmatized. It is always easier to criticize and destroy than to try to propose, create and act.
A boater who is fiu with it
- A single cigarette butt can indeed contaminate up to 500 liters of water due to the thousands of harmful substances (nicotine, phenols, heavy metals, ...), and sometimes carcinogenic, that cigarettes contain. A cigarette butt can take up to 15 years to completely degrade.
- One liter of gasoline can contaminate a million liters of water