"This Project is Rubbish!" is a research project focused on marine debris. It is run by the South African Shark Conservancy (SASC) and funded by Project Aware. "This Project is rubbish!" aims to quantify the accumulation rates, composition and distribution of macro and micro plastics in the Overstrand region of the Western Cape of South Africa. This will be achieved by completing sediment surface surveys as well as core sampling of the sediment. The project aims to develop awareness amongst the general public regarding marine debris through education and research.
So whats been happening with the project recently? Sampling the sediment surface for micro and macro debris has continued as usual for both sampling sites on a weekly basis. It is estimated that currently about 2000 debris items have been sampled. These debris items consist mainly of macro debris (debris of 5mm and greater). Of this debris the vast majority is plastic followed by cigarette butts, paper and glass. The most commonly occuring plastic functional group is still unidentified plastic fragments followed by user items, fishery items, packaging and food wrappers. The vast majority of debris has been found high up on the shore, which is where the most dominant debris line is often found. The abundance of debris seems to decrease as one moves towards the waters edge. More debris continues to be found at site two than site one (blue flag beach).
As for the education/community awareness part of the project, the South African Shark Conservancy will be involved with Whale Coast Conservations school sustainabilioty expo. The theme of the expo is "A Sustainable Future". The expo aims to educate school children about how to contribute to being part of a sustainable community through using sustainable energy, reducing litter, saving water and conserving the environment. SASC will be contributing to the Sustainable Seas: Marine Debris exhibit. The aim here is to educate school children and others about marine debris, their impacts, sources and ways in which marine debris can be reduced. The schools from a particular town will visit the expo for the day and then the expo will move onto the next town the following day.
Another idea we as SASC want to put into action is to erect fishing line bins (a rubbish bin for fishing line) at all popular fishing spots in the Walker bay area. We have noticed that fishing spots in particular are very dirty (mainly as a result of fishing line). There are not enough rubbish bins in close proximity to the fishing spots where anglers can dispose of their rubbish easily. The line bins have a very simple and cost effective design and are easy to put up. They allow fishermen to dispose of their rubbish instead of leaving it at the fishing spot where it has the potential to cause harm to wildlife through entaglement and ingestion. Plastics SA have said they are willing to support us by providing the line bins. However we are waiting for approval from the local municipality to give us permission to put up the line bins. If we are given permission, SASC will put up the line bins and take responsibility for cleaning and maintaining the bins on a regular basis.
Looking forward, sampling of the sediment surface will take place as usual on a weekly basis for both sites. We are interested to see if the change of seasons has an effect on debris loads. The analysis of core samples still needs to be completed so that we can get an idea of what debris occurs within the sediment.