Change the world

Ocean Sciences

25/04/2018

This article appeared in The Herald of 25 April 2018 written by Guy Rogers rogersg@tisoblackstar.co.za

AN INTERNATIONAL partnership to combat marine plastic pollution via a pilot project in Nelson Mandela Bay was announced yesterday. The multi-level partnership, to be spearheaded by the Port Elizabeth  based African Marine Waste Network, NMU and the Norwegian government, was unveiled at the Partnering for Ocean Space conference at the university.

Special guest Norwegian ambassador Trine Skymoen said the network and its co-founder the Sustainable Seas Trust had shone a ray of hope on a planet in crisis, where more than 700kg of plastic waste was entering the sea every second.

“They have taken the lead and Norway is proud to be a partner in their endeavour.

“If we manage our oceans right we can have food and prosperity. If we do it wrong, we will rob future generations. So it is time to make a change.”

Winning such praise and support is a huge coup for the network because Norway has become a leading force in the battle to rescue the world’s oceans from subsiding beneath a horror cocktail of overfishing, climate change and pollution.

In January, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg launched an international panel aimed at highlighting the relationship between ocean resources and economic growth.

The African Marine Waste Network was launched at NMU in 2016 and last year in Port Elizabeth it hosted the first pan-African conference focused on curbing marine pollution.

Africa is increasingly under the pollution spotlight with the prediction that unless trends change, it will overtake Asia by 2050 as the most littered continent on the planet.

According to the World Economic Forum, also by the mid-2000s, if action is not taken to stem the situation, plastic in the sea will literally outweigh the fish.

Yesterday Dr Tony Ribbink, director of the network, said his team would begin their work in Nelson Mandela Bay before rolling it out across Africa.

“This metro and adjacent Algoa Bay are large enough to represent Africa and small enough to reflect the progress we’re hoping to make.

“Other elements include a positive municipality, excellent collaboration with NMU, who have established a leading marine science faculty – and the people of this metro, who have a passion for their bay and the issues at stake.”

One of the young network teams will deploy drones, satellites and other remote sensing technology to identify problem areas and quantify them and then develop and monitor solution strategies.

Another will formulate a predictive model using this data plus other findings on aspects ranging from the flow of waste down rivers, especially the Swartkops, to the presence of nanoplastics in our food.

A youth network will be formed, various “cash for trash” incentive strategies will be explored, and efforts will be made to mobilise schools, universities, churches and other organisations to get involved and to help map plastic pollution.

A virtual African Waste Academy, the first of its kind in Africa, will be established, and a resource booklet and school curriculum, the first of its kind globally, will be developed with the guidance of the plastics industry.

Anyone interested or looking to get involved should visit www.africanwastenetwork.org.za