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Durban harbour clean-up a huge success

Over 30 volunteers from around Durban joined thousands more around the world on Saturday 16 September (International Coastal Clean-up Day) to collect the waste that is infesting our oceans.

Rallied by activist organisation Ocean Conservancy, the operations harnessed the power of people to fight ocean trash. According to the organisation; today, plastic has been found in 62% of all deceased sea birds and in 100% of deceased sea turtle species.

A diverse group of people from various professions, unified by their interest in cleaning up the environment, gathered at Trawlers Wharf to board the equipped, purpose-designed, research and expedition ship Angra Pequena.

The volunteers consisted of Ocean Stewards (Marine Science students expanding their knowledge and experience with the support of WILDOCEANS), the Blue Crew (female entrepreneurs who collect and barter waste collected with WILDOCEANS), partners from the Counsel of Science and Industrial Research and members of the Durban community.

The group was then split in two and dropped off to clean up Center Banks and Bayhead Mangroves. Skipper and “mother” of the Angra Pequena, Jean Harris, says that the reason why they targeted areas within the harbour is that these locations are not easily accessible by foot or vehicle.

The experience was eye opening for many of the first time volunteers who, amid strong winds, managed to collect almost two tons of waste in a space of five hours.

Julliette Lagesse says she didn’t expect to collect that much plastic and rubbish. “I’m shocked by how short a time it took for a small group of people to collect such a huge amount.  Besides cigarette buds, bottles and plastic, there were some interesting and unexpected finds! Among them was a car part, styrofoam, slops, kettles, a road barrier, a trolley and a broken bin.”

“Properly disposed of waste ends up in landfill where it’s eventually buried or burnt. People don’t really think further then needing to get rid of the rubbish. We live in a world where it’s instant gratification for most things, it’s too much effort to go throw it away”, she says.

Nkos’khona Memela of the Counsel of Science and Industrial Research says that people need to understand that the ocean isn’t just for swimming in, it plays a vital role in society. “This clean up should have had everyone hyped up about this issue, my friend here didn’t even know that this event takes place every year. It’s important that communities are made aware of these issues, especially the black community, many of us aren’t aware of these things, we don’t see them. We’ve been fortunate because through education we are here today.”

The waste was gathered and picked up by a small boat from each location and craned onto the vessel. Once back at the wharf it was collected by a six ton truck to dispose of at the Wildlands Recycling Depot.

Dave Moldenhauer of Wildlands believes that this is more of a token to show solidarity and a willingness to be part of something. He stresses the need to be conscience consumers who care about what happens next when it comes to waste.

 “If you come here in a month’s time, there will be plastic and rubbish here again. So it needs to be the springboard for more sustainable activities. It does make a difference as you can see right now the beach is clean but I think using the images we’ve captured here and the message collectively and perhaps weighing the plastic and showing people what’s happening, it can then become part of an educational tool. Without addressing the why, we’re never going to stop the amount of litter coming down into the marine environment or into any environment. So upstream from here is addressing the problem at source is what really needs to happen.”

Deck Hand, James Patrick feels that the private company that owns the wharfs in the harbour as well as those responsible for the cleaning and maintenance, are to blame for its deterioration.

“The water here is awful, they don’t check for stuff like micro-plastics and trash, garbage does so much harm, small packets will be eaten by any form of reptile because it seems like a jelly fish or a piece of a gelatinous type of marine organism. The six pack plastic packaging and fish wires are deadly for birds, you see pictures of them with their legs rotting off because they’ve had wire wrapped around it for so long and traps them to the ground. You find pelicans completely entangled in fishing lines and it’s not even a net, just a line that you use to throw out. Straws are really bad because if they break up they look like little pieces of fish. It’s all the stuff that you throw out every day that is the most damaging.

Despite the gloom, he reckons that the issues can definitely be dealt with by implementing good measures such as installing a low cost filter system at the opening of the canal of the harbour.

“Harbours are a place where ships can go in safely it’s supposed to be a place that must look nice and be attractive. It’s a tourist attraction.”

For global weird finds, the top ten most collected items and other updates for this year’s International Coastal Clean-up Day, follow the link below.




Article by Zamo Phungula