Ulovane Update: Marine Conservation Issues

13 Oct

Ulovane Update: Marine Conservation issues

The topic on everybody’s lips now when it comes to the world’s oceans, is PLASTIC. Let us start our discussion today on that – plastic. Plastic of all sorts and sizes and its effect on our oceans and wildlife and US!!!

Full scale of plastic in the world’s oceans revealed for the first time

Over five trillion pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain says most comprehensive study to date on plastic pollution around the world.

Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand over a period of six years, suggests a minimum of 5.25 tn plastic particles in the oceans, most of them “microplastics” measuring less than 5mm.

Larger pieces of plastic can strangle animals such as seals, while smaller pieces are ingested by fish and then fed up the food chain, all the way to humans. This is problematic due to the chemicals contained within plastics, as well as the pollutants that plastic attracts once they are in the marine environment. Bigger fish are eating the smaller fish and then they end up on our plates. It is hard to tell how much pollution is being ingested but certainly, plastics are providing some of it.

While spread around the globe, much of this rubbish accumulates in five large ocean gyres, which are circular currents that churn up plastics in a set area. Each of the major oceans have plastic-filled gyres, including the well-known “great pacific garbage patch” that covers an area roughly equivalent to Texas.

“Our findings show that the garbage patches in the middle of the five subtropical gyres are not the final resting places for the world’s floating plastic trash,” says Marcus Eriksen. “The end game for microplastic is interactions with entire ocean ecosystems.”

Why are Oceans important?

Oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and humankind. They flow over nearly three-quarters of our planet and hold 97% of the planet’s water. They produce more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and absorb the most carbon from it,

No matter how far from the shore that you live, oceans still affect your life and the lives of your families and friends.

The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the products that keep you warm, safe, informed and entertained – all can come from or be transported by the ocean.

About half of the world’s population lives within the coastal zone, and ocean-based businesses contribute more than $500 billion to the world’s economy. Historically, we thought that we could never take too much out of, or put too much waste into the oceans.

The sheer number of people who use and depend on the ocean, and the sometimes, unwise practices we adopt, have created problems such as overharvest of resources, reduction in biodiversity, and degradation of marine habitats and species, among others. We risk the very ecosystems on which our survival depends.

We must become better stewards of our oceans.

One meaningful way to do this is by creating effective marine protected areas (MPA’s) and MPA networks.

What are Marine Protected Areas?

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a critical tool not only to address many of the threats to marine and coastal ecosystems but also to meet a wide range of human needs including education, fisheries management, recreation, income generation and research. MPAs are an important tool for fisheries management.

The efficiency of MPAs at building up spawning stocks of commercially important species within their boundaries and increasing catches for local fisheries outside their boundaries has been well documented. MPAs are not only useful tools for effective fisheries management and species protection, they also provide significant benefits in the form of ecosystem services such as coastal protection, waste assimilation and flood management. If properly designed and managed, MPAs can play vitally important roles in protecting marine habitats and biodiversity through.

Bird island Marine Protected Area

The Bird Island MPA, designated in 2004 is, in fact, a fully protected ‘marine reserve’ in which no extractive activities are permitted.

An expansion of South Africa’s third largest national park, the Greater Addo Elephant National Park, the immediate protection of the Bird Islands was considered a priority to control abalone poachers and to protect many of its vulnerable bird species, such as the African penguin and Cape gannet.

The reserve covers 70.38 square kilometres and encompasses Bird, Seal, Stag and Black Rock Islands, which are situated at the north-eastern end of Algoa Bay. Since the establishment of a marine ranger team in 2007, there has been a significant decrease in illegal abalone poaching within the Bird Island MPA.

Black Rocks is an important seal breeding colony that supports the threatened great white shark population. Observations of young great white sharks within Algoa Bay suggest that this area may be an important nursery ground for this iconic and important apex predator.

Great white shark

In 2006 Bird Island was declared as a restricted diving zone. In addition to the regulation preventing any form of fishing within the marine reserve, anyone diving within the reserve must first attain a diving permit from the Manager of the reserve. And to help ensure that fishing is not being carried out in the area, only a limited number of permits are issued each year.

In conclusion:

Take a rubbish bag with you the next time you go to the beach and come back with the rubbish bag filled with plastic. Remember that what and how we do things will inevitably affect us, somehow, be it directly or indirectly.

Go and visit places like Marine Protected Areas – learn from them and support them so that you can improve your own knowledge.

Teach people of all ages the importance of conserving our oceans – MOST just do not know, it does not mean that they do not care.

Remember, knowledge is power.

The oceans are our lifeblood – we depend on it, just as much as the ocean depends on us for a healthy coexistence.

  • Shani Preller

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