SAAMBR’s World Oceans Day 2017 celebrations on 8 June focused on creating micro plastics awareness. The programme looked at what micro plastics are, how they have become an invisible part of our daily lives and how they adversely affect our health and that of the oceans.
The day began with a very successful joint presentation by Plastics SA and SAAMBR to over 80 industry leaders, media representatives and members of the public to launch Operation Clean Sweep, an international plastics industry initiative to promote zero plastics, resin pellets and flakes in the environment.
Judy Mann-Lang, conservation strategist of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) explained how plastic, which is sometimes difficult to spot and pick up, could outnumber fish in the seas by 2050 if no action is taken.
Before uShaka Sea World and uShaka Marine World opened and the visitors arrived on 8 June, more than 100 uShaka Marine World and SAAMBR staff gathered on the beach and spent a most enjoyable hour with sand between their toes, concentrating on removing the tiny pieces of litter not usually collected by the official beach cleaning team.
While most staff were on the beach, a group of ORI scientists took a boat out in to the bay and collected water samples as part of an across-borders collaborative initiative involving 23 African countries. The water samples were tested and acidification data sent to the Ocean Acidification Network – Africa.
When the marine park opened a beautiful mermaid and Thandi the litter mascot drew the attention of visitors to the World Oceans Day exhibitions in the paid and free access areas of uShaka Marine World. This provided an ideal platform for the education staff to enlighten a captive audience about the benefits of making responsible choices when purchasing toiletries. A total of 358 guests pledged to change to micro-bead-free toiletries.
A specially scripted World Oceans Day dolphin show launched our “From me to sea” campaign to 1,368 learners and more than 1,000 day visitors. This campaign highlights the impact our personal choices have on the ocean regardless of how far we live from the sea. We invited the audience to join the SAAMBR team as ocean ambassadors and spread the word: litter belongs in the bin. With the help of Gambit, uShaka Sea World’s legendary dolphin who showed them where litter belongs, the message was undoubtedly impactful.
With the support of local radio stations, a television broadcast, community newspapers, online news platforms, social media and daily newspapers we were able to share our World Oceans Day message with around four-million South Africans.