Marine Litter Monitoring

The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) has partnered with SST to establish a monitoring programme for marine and riverine litter in countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). The seven WIO countries (Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania) involved in the project are working together to determine how much litter is flowing down rivers and accumulating on beaches in their regions.

“This data by the collaboration of the seven countries will help to determine current litter baselines, inform litter reduction measures, and monitor the impact and effectiveness of such measures,” said SST researcher Toshka Barnardo.

The seven countries conduct simultaneous monitoring surveys along a range of beaches and rivers for ten days. The first survey to kickstart the project began on World Oceans Day 8th June 2019. The day before the surveys began, the countries first cleared all the litter to start with a clean site. This was done so the litter from the previous months wouldn’t affect the results. For ten days, the countries then collected litter along their study sites. They then cleaned, counted, weighed and grouped the litter into specific categories. The results determined how much litter accumulates daily on the beaches and river banks.

Representing South Africa, SST conducted its surveys in Cape Recife, Bluewater Bay and the Swartkops River Estuary. Cape Recife was found to have the most litter accumulated, 2792 litter items, followed by Bluewater Bay, 1529 litter items, and lastly 720 litter items accumulated in Swartkops. The average litter items found per day was 279 in Cape Recife, 153 in Bluewater Bay and 72 in the Swartkops. The top three items found were food wrappers, plastic film fragments and foam fragments.

“SST is very proud to be a part of this collaboration that seeks to understand marine waste and its challenges,” said SST Executive Director Stacey Webb. “As a local living in Nelson Mandela Bay, I was absolutely astounded by the magnitude of litter washing up on a daily basis. It highlights the magnitude of the waste management issues we are dealing with on land. Nelson Mandela Bay is a Hope spot and is very rich in biodiversity, so we need to work together to combat waste pollution on land and reduce the impact we have on the sea.”

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