Even though every day is ocean day for the Ocean Odyssey team, we still wanted to take time out to both honour and participate in the official World Ocean Day which took place on Friday June 8th – in collective spirit with concerned citizens around the globe. The aim of this annual event is to heighten people’s awareness about the critical importance of a healthy marine environment. The day is marked around the world in a variety of different ways, including innovative ocean campaigns and conservation initiatives, beach clean-ups, educational programs and more.
The theme for this year’s World Ocean Day is an urgent one! It is a call to prevent plastic pollution from choking our oceans. The negative impact of plastic has become heartbreakingly palpable. A shocking 8 million tons or more of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year and this is proving to be a serious problem not only for the wide diversity of sea life it sustains, but for humans too.
Shocking images and videos of divers swimming in a sea thick with plastic debris, a turtle with straw stuck up its nose, a small seahorse clinging onto an ear-bud, rivers of plastic moving through cities – images like these cut the heart of the problem and many people are finally understanding that their excessive use of plastic needs to be curtailed, and soon. Slowly, but surely, the tide seems to be turning and the awareness about our global plastic pollution crisis is growing exponentially, due, in part, to the powerful impact of social media.
We believe that if we work together, we can be part of the solution. In an effort to tackle the plastic pollution problem on a local level, we teamed up for this year’s World Ocean Day with the SANparks honorary rangers, an amazing group of volunteers who work tirelessly for the protection of Knysna’s precious natural environment. This group of ardent conservationists have identified three different sections along the banks of the estuary that were in dire need of litter control and every Tuesday at low tide they set about not only cleaning up the litter found on the banks that skirt this famous watery world, but they also painstakingly document the items which they find. Working together with an organisation in Cape Town called The Dirty Dozen, they assess which types of plastic are most prevalent, in the hopes that by identifying the worst plastic offenders, a targeted awareness campaign can be implemented.
Delle Henry, spokesperson for the SANparks Honorary Rangers, feels very positive about the progress which they have made over time and she said that their weekly clean-ups have been very effective overall. Plastic pollution is a serious problem not only in the Greater Knysna area but also throughout our country. In fact, South Africa was ranked 11th on the list of the world’s worst plastic polluters in 2015. According to statistics, South Africa uses and throws away 54 425 tonnes of trash per day (about 2kg’s per person). South Africa’s waste management systems are also not entirely effective throughout the country, which means that a lot of the waste generated on land in poorer communities where there is little or no waste management, ends up in rivers and then out to sea.
As a South African citizen, by giving up or at least minimizing your daily plastic use, you will be conserving one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in world, which boasts 13 000 species sustained across 3000 kilometres of our country’s extensive coastline. Not only does the ocean support an awe-inspiring abundance of marine life, but it is, essentially, our own lifeblood too. It generates most of the oxygen we breathe, helps feed us, regulates our climate, offers a pharmacopoeia of medicines and much much more.
Drastic changes in our lifestyles need to start today and every small change has the potential to have a big impact. Stand with us at Ocean Odyssey and all those honouring World Ocean Day as we take the pledge to:
Refuse plastic shopping bags
Refuse the straw – because straws suck and kill marine wildlife.
Try not to buy bottled water and limit buying any other beverage in plastic bottles. (around the world, 1 million plastic beverage bottles are used every minute!!!)
If you use plastic – recycle it.
Make Bio-bricks with un-recyclable plastic.
TOGETHER WE CAN REDUCE SINGLE USE PLASTICS AND MAKE A LASTING IMPACT.