THE first African Marine Debris Summit highlighted the urgent need for a collective action to be taken against the problem of marine debris facing the continent of Africa.
The Summit – entitled “African lessons to inspire local actions” – took place at the SA National Biodiversity Institute at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and focused specifically on the issue of marine debris around the African continent.
Plastics|SA, the umbrella body representing the South African plastics industry, joined hands with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme in organizing the conference, which brought together marine debris researchers, natural resource managers, policy makers, industry representatives and the non-governmental community.
“The marine environment has many challenges. Global warming is visible within this sphere and its impact is slowly being understood. Overfishing, acidification, chemical pollution with the added pollution of marine debris, of which the main product is plastic, is compounding the negative effect that humans have on the environment,” the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Me Rejoice Mabudafhasi said during her opening speech.
Mabudafhasi stressed that marine debris is not just an unsightly issue that has a negative impact on tourism and human health, but it also is responsible for deaths of a myriad of the creatures that inhabit the marine environment. “80% of all plastic found in the sea has its origins on land through littering and poor waste management, so this negative impact on the environment can be reduced and even stopped,” the Deputy Minister said.
Also commenting on the issue, Plastics|SA Executive Director Anton Hanekom, confirmed that marine debris is a historical problem that continues to grow. “The world’s oceans and waterways are constantly polluted with a wide variety of marine debris ranging from cans and plastic bags to derelict fishing gear and abandoned vessels.