“South Africa has what it takes to become one of the world leaders in reducing the amount of litter that ends up in our oceans. Not only do we possess some of the most beautiful, diverse and dramatic coastlines in the world – teeming with a wide variety of different marine animals – but we also have private individuals, companies, research institutions and government departments who share a passion for protecting our oceans and coasts and are willing to share expertise and take each other’s hands in a concerted effort to protect our marine heritage for future generations”.
Speaking at the conclusion of the 2nd African Marine Debris Summit (AMDS) which took place at the SANBI Research Centre in Kirstenbosch, Cape Town recently, Sustainability Manager at Plastics|SA and convener of the event, John Kieser, said that he was greatly encouraged by the outcomes of the discussions.
The aim of this year’s summit, hosted by Plastics|SA in conjunction with UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme), the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANBI(S A National Biodiversity Institute), was to facilitate the formation of a Southern African Network on Marine Debris with the long-term goal of establishing an African network that ties into the global management of marine debris.
Plastics the biggest challenge in marine debris, though the tide is going to turn
“We acknowledge that plastics are the biggest challenge in reducing the accumulation of marine debris along shorelines, floating on the sea surface and lying on the ocean floor. However, we are committed to turning the tide on marine debris through forming partnerships with the marine fraternity’s programme on quantifying and understanding the drivers of marine litter through support for coastal clean-ups and various research initiatives”.
The event was officially opened by the Honourable Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture and previously Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, who said that she greatly supported the Summit as this was where innovative solutions can be identified and promoted so that, over time, we could see less marine debris entering our scenic and much loved coastal areas.
International cooperation necessary to create public awareness
“Marine debris such as plastic items, fishing gear, food packages, glass, metals, medical waste and cigarette filters are an international concern, not only because it washes up on beaches and shorelines worldwide and looks unsightly, but also because debris can be transferred from one country to another via ocean currents. International cooperation is therefore necessary to create public awareness, while developing ways to decrease the amount of debris in oceans around the globe,” Mabudafhasi said.
Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics | SA agreed with this sentiment and highlighted the importance of supporting platforms where different countries, industries and experts can share lessons learned, strategies and best practices to reduce and prevent the impact of marine debris. The exchange of innovative ideas on topics such as plastics recycling initiatives and communications strategies contribute to scaling up successful approaches to reducing marine debris.
This year’s Summit attracted representatives from as far afield as Kenya, the Seychelles, Washington DC and Germany, not to mention more than 80 delegates from UNEP,the Department of Environmental Affairs, Seychelles Fishing Authority, Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute, the Whale Coast Conservation, University of Stuttgart in Germany, UCT, North-West University, Rhodes University, Nature’s Valley Trust, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife, Two Oceans Aquarium, Kelpak, SANBI, Olifants Estuary Management Forum, Centre for Conservation Education, Extended Public Works Programme, WWF SA, Seaworld, Spur Restaurants, SA Navy, Invasive Species Management, City of Cape Town, Sustainable Seas Trust, the Dyer Island Trust, Packaging SA, PETCO, POLYCO and Plastics|SA.
Cleaned up ocean benefits aquatic and human life
“As delegates and experts who are interested in the topic, you are meeting once again to continue to exchange ideas and seek appropriate solutions to the problem… in line with the theme for this year’s World Oceans Day which reads, “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet: Enabling Sustainable Ocean Economy Development”. Our efforts to rid our marine environment of marine debris will contribute towards the health of our oceans and our people who rely on it,” Deputy Minister Mabudafhasi encouraged the audience.
“The 2nd African Marine Debris Summit once again highlighted that most of the litter that reaches our marine environment originates from our actions on land. Plastics|SA is a committed and key partner in efforts aimed at understanding the issues around marine debris within the South African context. The summit forms part of this growing partnership and it enables us to share and learn from our fellow African coastal countries. Along with Packaging SA, we support the aims of the PPIWMP to increase packaging recycling rates and promote the importance of discarding packaging waste in an environmentally responsible way. In conjunction with the Plastics Industry Global Action Team on Marine Debris actions, Plastics|SA remains committed to turning the tide on marine debris.”