Marine Program Launched to Tackle South African Ocean Plastics
Experts from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), part of the U.K. government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), are partnering with the South African government and working alongside research colleagues in South Africa to identify solutions to problems posed by marine litter, including reducing our reliance on single-use plastics, improvements in waste management, and moving towards a more circular economy for plastics.
The Commonwealth Litter Program (CLiP) launched with a community beach outreach event in Cape Town, on 24th September, where Cefas scientists demonstrated scientific monitoring techniques and held an exhibition on marine litter challenges and solutions. The U.K. Royal family’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are currently on a tour of South Africa, met with Cefas’ principal marine litter scientist, Thomas Maes, during the event to hear more about the CLiP program and approaches to tackling marine litter internationally.
In recent years, the serious issue of marine litter and plastic pollution has been recognized by international governments and organizations, as well as local communities, as a growing threat to the marine environment and people’s livelihoods. This work will form a key part of the U.K.- and Vanuatu-led Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA), which South Africa has joined, reflecting the priority they attach to this challenge. The CCOA, launched at the April 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in London, unites countries around the world in their shared ambition to tackle plastics in the marine environment. To support this, the U.K. government is funding CLiP to help share expertise and solutions.
The program is working with colleagues in the South African government, regional organizations, academia and community groups, to carry out scientific monitoring and to develop ideas and actions which support existing efforts and will enable them to further achieve their ambitions on tackling plastic pollution. The program will develop best practices and create a network of people, groups and communities across which these solutions and ideas can be shared.
“Cefas is delighted to be collaborating with the government and other organisations in South Africa in finding solutions to the issues around marine litter. Cefas has international expertise and experience in marine litter science and policy which we are pleased to share with South Africa, and other partner nations, to help address the problem,” said Cefas’ principal marine litter scientist, Thomas Maes.
Scientists will be in the region until December, working with local colleagues and stakeholders to monitor litter, clean beaches, set up a microplastics laboratory and raise awareness of actions which can be taken. Alongside the scientific work there will be a marine litter arts and innovation contest for children, students and entrepreneurs to share their ideas on how to reduce plastic pollution. Winners will be announced in December at the CLiP Innovation Conference, to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) solutions to the issues. Science and policy workshops will also give the opportunity to consider scientific monitoring results in relation to approaches to tackling marine litter. The programme continues in India from November, followed next spring by a conference to be held in London, U.K. to share best-practice knowledge gained from the countries involved in CliP.