Tim Pankhurst diving with manta rays in Bali.

Anyone doubting the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans need only visit the so-called holiday paradise of Bali.

Beyond the vivid sunsets, the warmth and the smiling Balinese, the beaches are tips and the waters, both drinking and swimming, are heavily polluted.

At Manta Point, a fast 45-minute boat ride off the main island, majestic manta rays soar and glide like black Vulcan bombers, circling a rocky uprising where tiny cleaner fish congregate and dart into the gills and mouths of their giant hosts to remove irritating parasites.

Along with hordes of scuba and free divers, the mantas also share the clear blue waters with all manner of plastic rubbish – a huge swirl of bags and wrappers and containers.

The dive operators just shrug, that’s the way it is.

A YouTube video posted last month reveals the horrifying extent of the problem.

Massive plastic pollution is a worldwide problem and New Zealand cannot expect to remain untouched.

The amount of plastic ending up in the oceans is expected to treble within a decade, according to the British Government’s Foresight Future of the Sea Report.

The world’s current largest collection of ocean garbage, located halfway between Hawaii and California, is estimated to cover more than 155 million hectares and weigh 88,000 tonnes, according to research published in Nature Scientific Reports last month.

The toxic effects when plastics break down and end up inside marine organisms are not fully understood but can hardly be positive.

Plastics have only been developed since the 1940s and the time taken to degrade is unknown. It could be decades, it could be centuries or more.

Like tackling climate change, what can little old New Zealand do to make a difference?

Quite a lot actually.

A good start would be to ban single use plastic bags – Kiwis consume 1.6 billion every year – as France has done and island nations such as Vanuatu, American Samoa, Yap and several Australian states.

And do we really need to buy bottled water in this country? If you cannot survive without the reassurance of a portable water supply, why not opt for a reusable container?

New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations CleanSeas campaign and the previous government did move to ban plastic microbeads used as abrasives in products like facial cleansers, bath scrubs and toothpaste.

But plastic reduction targets are medium term and there is much that could be done sooner.

Seafood company Sanford is taking a lead both on and off the water.

It is moving to replace single use plastic bags with reuseable cooler bags in its retail outlets.

The company has also set an ambitious target of replacing its polystyrene boxes (it uses 50,000 a year) with recyclable alternative cartons by the end of this year.

The polybins currently in use are light and strong and heat resistant but they are a nightmare to dispose of.

Sanford has also partnered with Sustainable Coastlines to remove marine debris; is recycling its polypropylene mussel farm floats (around 4500 a year); has an eco-farm pilot project under way in Marlborough’s Pelorus Bay and is replacing plastic lashings on mussel ropes with plant based alternatives that break down naturally and is using old ropes to build fish ladders and even produce mussel-themed clothing.

Its reasoning is simple: “We are striving to be part of the solution, not the problem,” says Lisa Martin, general manager sustainability.

“The people of New Zealand own the Marlborough Sounds, so we must behave in such a way that we are always welcome to be here,” adds Grant Boyd, Sanford floating and farm development manager.

New Zealand can be a leader in reducing ocean pollution and the seafood sector can be at the forefront of that.