Looking at global facts and figures on marine conservancy, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that our seas and shores are under severe strain. And most of the threats facing ocean life have terrestrial origins. Land-based sources of pollution, such as agricultural run-off, discharge of nutrients and pesticides, untreated sewage and plastic waste, account for approximately 80% of marine pollution globally.
Sewage and agricultural run-off dumped into the sea have contributed to the number of low-oxygen (hypoxic) areas known as dead zones, where most marine life cannot survive, resulting in the collapse of some ecosystems. There are now close to 500 dead zones around the world, covering more than 245 000 km².
The staggering stats don’t end there. Litter is swamping our oceans and is washing up on beaches at an alarming rate. It not only kills wildlife, but is also a hazard to our health and costs millions to clean up. There are reportedly nearly 2 500 items of rubbish for every kilometre on a beach.
A big culprit is plastic and our heavy reliance on it. It is estimated that at least eight million tons of plastics enter the ocean each year, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Plastics make up 90% of all large debris stranded on South African beaches. Plastics that are repeatedly exposed to wave action, salt water and the sun break down into microplastics that continue to exist in the ocean for years. Marine wildlife frequently ingest these microplastics, with turtles and seabirds being particularly susceptible.
The problem might seem insurmountable in scale but a concerted civil response will undoubtedly go a long way towards alleviating it. That is why now, more than ever before, it is time to take action and to reduce, reuse, recycle. Our sea life urgently needs humankind to get real about waste and clean up its act, or more literally its beaches.
This year’s International Coastal Clean-up Day takes place on Saturday, 16 September 2017. It is a chance for ordinary people who care about conservation to rally their family, friends and community to help clean up local beaches and make a tangible contribution to coastal sustainability. Watch this blog space for more information about how you can get involved.
Sources: WWF, World Economic Forum, Marine Conservation Society, Dept. Environmental Affairs (DEA).International Cleanup: Saturday, September 16th, 201ght Ocean Trash