A unique global citizen science survey in which scuba divers around the world remove and report marine litter has reached a milestone this week, with organizers announcing one million items of trash removed from the ocean.
The #OneMillionLess milestone was announced by Project AWARE®, a global nonprofit organization working to create positive change for the ocean through community action. As part of Dive Against Debris®, a global marine debris survey launched in 2011, 49,188 divers from 114 countries have taken part in an effort both to clean up the ocean and build evidence to shine a light on the global marine litter crisis.
Recreational and professional divers have retrieved objects varying from sunbeds to batteries and shoes, as well as vast quantities of plastic bags, cutlery and bottles. The data collected captures essential information for scientists to estimate debris that has sunk to the seafloor. It also supports work to find solutions to save vulnerable marine life and ensure the future of a clean and healthy ocean.
This milestone comes at a time of unprecedented focus on the issue of plastic pollution and its impact on the health of the ocean. Scientists estimate some 20 million tonnes of plastic waste could enter the ocean every year. 2017 saw the United Nations and national governments step up efforts to eliminate plastic waste. The European Commission, for example, recently adopted the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics as part of the transition towards a more circular economy to keep plastics and their value in the economy, avoid waste and reduce marine litter.
Volunteers involved in Dive Against Debris have provided data which is helping convince decision-makers to adopt more stringent policies on plastics. Almost 70 percent of all items reported through Dive Against Debris were plastics. In December 2017, the Vanuatu Government announced a ban on the import and local manufacturing of non-biodegradable plastics, based on studies done by environmental groups including local dive center Big Blue.
Project AWARE, this week, hailed the engagement and dedication of divers globally in highlighting the issue as well making a huge contribution to clean up marine trash and save wildlife. Danna Moore, Director, Project AWARE said “Divers dive because they have a deep love for the ocean and the life it supports. They are, more than any of us, confronted daily with the damage that human activity is having on marine life. We have an army of activists out there working to change things, and we salute every one of them on this amazing achievement”.
Moore urges more divers to get involved and calls on governments and industry to act urgently to adopt measures to reduce plastic waste and penalize ocean polluters. The nonprofit organization is asking divers to remove and report one million more pieces of rubbish by end of 2020 and help highlight the true extent of the marine debris problem.
Key Statistics on Dive Against Debris:
- One million pieces of rubbish removed and reported since 2011
- 49,188 - Scuba divers
- 5,351 - Surveys
- 114 - Countries around the world
- 5,597 - Entangled or dead animals
- 64% - Plastic waste
- 307,064 kgs / 676,959lbs - Total weight
Photo by Sunshine Divers, Thailand