Poor rubbish disposal and a lack of sanitation are being blamed for an increase in pollution in the Pacific Ocean.
Joeli Veitayaki, head of the School of Marine Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, has told Pacific Beat for people who depend on the ocean, any threat is serious.
"The amount of rubbish that is now in the marine environment and all the areas leading out to that - the rivers and the inland water bodies," he said.
"It is the ocean the provides the bulk of the food that the people of the Pacific depend on - so if one looks at the problem from both those ends, one can imagine the seriousness of that problem."
Professor Veitayaki says Pacific countries depend on their waters not just for food, but also increasingly for exports such as tuna and seabed minerals.
He says some countries are already seeing an economic impact from water pollution.
"In some of the countries, people are permanently sick from water-borne diseases, because of polluted water bodies that people use," he said.
"If people are sick, money will be spent on getting them back to health, so it's a problem that cuts across the economic activities of all the small island countries."
Professor Veitayaki says the changing nature of the garbage generated by Pacific communities means more education and new policies are needed.
"They're the ones that are on the line, the future of their communities is what we're talking about, and it's up to the to try and address the issue and give it the attention that it deserves," he said.