Each year, three times as much rubbish is dumped into the world’s oceans as the weight of fish caught. To put this into perspective,  in 1950, 20 million tons of fish were caught globally. In 1996 120 million tons of fish were caught. This means we are looking at around 400 MILLION TONS of rubbish being dumped in the oceans each year! All this pollution of the oceans from the various sources is taking a HUGE toll.

Sea Shepherd Volunteers
Trash delivered to Dept 

On Saturday the 9th of April, I organised that the Cape Town chapter of Sea Shepherd South Africa would get together and do our bit. It was a fairly successful event. We had around 30 volunteers and managed to pick up around 80 bags of trash, mostly plastic, styrofoam containers and broken glass. The irony was that all this trash lies less than 150 meters from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. By way of making a statement, we delivered the trash to their very doorstep. 

There is most certainly a need for this type of event to happen on a regular basis. Why?

1. To save our wildlife
 Each year, hundreds of thousands of sea birds become entangled in marine debris. They lose their legs, they cannot swim or feed. They either starve to death or drown. Entanglement is not limited to birds, but affects all types of creatures including whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and turtles. In fact, plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species, 44 percent of all sea bird species, and 43 percent of marine mammal species. Marine animals also mistake trash for food and many die from consuming plastic bags, cigarette butts and debris from fire works. 

2. Our Economy

Beaches are an ideal tourist attraction. The V & A Waterfront in Cape Town (for example) is known as a premier tourist destination. By maintaining the highest standards, we can ensure a continuous stream of tourism. The revenue generated from the support of tourists is essential to our community. To ignore this factor would not be our wisest of choices.

3. Clean Beaches

For many of us, a day at the beach is where we go to relax after a hard weeks work. It is a time of recreation and to be with our children and families. We certainly don’t want this spoiled by sitting in a pile of filth or worse yet, injuring ourselves by stepping on shards of broken glass.

So what exactly IS marine debris? Where does it come from?

Marine debris is trash or other solid material, which enters oceans and often washes up on beaches. Research has indicated that more than 80% of marine debris comes from land based pollution. When it rains, trash left on the sidewalks and streets is washed into storm drains, which is then carried to the nearest waterway, and eventually flows into the ocean. Often beach goers themselves are responsible and leave their litter lying around where it it blows around and ends up in the sea. Ocean users, such as recreational and commercial fishermen, may lose or discard fishing materials and other debris overboard. Sometimes this is unintentional, other times deliberate. Common forms of marine debris include plastic bags and cooldrink bottles, styrofoam containers from take-aways, nappies, cigarette butts, glass, clothing, tyres, rope, floatation devices, condoms, soda cans, pill bottles, film canisters etc