Keeping South Africa’s oceans clean is everyone’s responsibility

08 June2018

On the occasion of World Oceans Day, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa has reiterated that all South Africans have a responsibility to keep the country’s oceans and water systems clean and litter-free.

With research conducted in 2015 finding that between 90 000 and 250 000 tonnes of litter enters South Africa’s oceans every year, the Department of Environmental Affairs is using the occasion of World Oceans Day to draw attention to the issue of marine pollution.

The event this year is being observed under the theme:Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

Oceans make up 80% of the earth’s surface, and are the planet’s life support system. With an estimated 300 million tonnes of plastics entering the world’s oceans every year, there is an urgent need to tackle and eradicate the problem.

Litter harms marine life in a number of ways. Physical harm is caused when animals become entangled in plastic or discarded fishing lines, or the rubbish could be mistaken for food and eaten - leading to death.  

In May this year, INTERPOL’s 23rd Pollution Crime Working Group and Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee Advisory Board met in South Africa to discuss the enforcement of environmental legislation. By launching “Operation 30 Days at Sea” for June 2018, the Working Group has shown its commitment to cleaning our oceans of illegal and hazardous waste.

The Department of Environmental Affairs leads a number of initiatives aimed at tackling marine litter in South Africa. Amongst these is the Working for the Coast Project, which covers the entire South African coastline.

The Department is engaging with key stakeholders with a view to launching a collaborative initiative aimed at stepping up the collection of litter in areas within river catchments, to prevent it from reaching the sea. We are also working to increase activities such as community based-waste sorting and recycling.  This campaign, called Source-2-Sea, will be launched in the coming months.

In addition, theNational Pollution Laboratory (NPL) located at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) has been established and work will soon be commencing. The laboratory will monitor water quality along the South African coast.

“It is important to remember that we need to tackle the problem of marine litter at source,” says Dr Molewa; adding: “Plastic products end up polluting our environment and oceans, endangering marine life and threatening human health. As consumers, we need to take steps at home, in the workplace, and in our everyday lives to limit the amount of plastic we use and how we dispose of it.”

Minister Molewa also reminded South Africans of the upcoming launch of the #THUMAMINA/green/good/deeds; for a clean and beautiful South Africa campaign, in response to the Presidential THUMA-MINA Initiative.

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Editor’s note:

South Africa has adopted the entire month of June to heighten awareness of environmental issues through various pertinent activities. It is during the month of June that South Africa will also celebrate the World Environment Day (WED) and the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD).

The WED is the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) biggest annual event commemorated on 5 June, with an aim of galvanising positive environmental action. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1972, and was first celebrated in 1974 with a view to deepening