Litter threatening our coast
North Coast environmentalists are increasingly concerned about the impacts more and more litter on the beaches and tidal zones is having on this environment.
Local environmental fundi of ETC Africa and Tidal Tao Duncan Pritchard said fishing line and debris left by fishermen is one of the most common and serious problems.
“Ask anyone living in a coastal town what really bugs them on the beach and many will say the same thing – old fishing line laying about, rotting boxes of sardines, fish guts, the smell.
“Go snorkelling offshore and you will remove hundred of metres of old fishing line every time, you’ll find dead birds with fishing line tangled around them, dead fish tangled in old fishing line. Any other “hobby” that left this mess would be very unpopular,” said Pritchard.
Pritchard said through Tidal Tao they have started carefully removing fishing line from patches of coral growth in the tidal areas of Ballito, Salt Rock and Sheffield Beach.
“Initially our intentions were purely aesthetic in nature, the fishing line just looked plain ugly. But then a reality begun to dawn, the fishing line we were finding was not just tangled in the coral, it was actually killing the coral.
“We begun looking even closer and found in some areas, almost half the coral growth was either dead or dying as a direct result of fishing line. It acts as a “trap” catching algae and other plant material which eventually just suffocates the coral. Well over 50% of any coral “patch” we find has been impacted by discarded old fishing line,” said Pritchard.
He said the good news is that by clearing the coral of fishing line, they have noticed an almost immediate improvement in the general appearance and health of individual coral patches.
A resident, Suzette Barnard who moved to the area recently, said she is also shocked at how people do not pick up litter on the beaches. She said she has noticed vast amounts of litter especially on Salt Rock beaches.
“The municipality can only do so much, we have to play our part as well. If everyone who goes to the beach just picks up one thing, as well as taking care of their own rubbish, it could make such a difference,” said Barnard.
Pritchard said other common litter found on the beach is plastic bottles, the straws from ear buds and such items washed down the loo.
“People need to realise that what they flush down the loo inevitably ends up in the oceans,” said Pritchard.
Pritchard explained for those wanting to attempt removal themselves, cleaning coral is a very delicate process and one can easily do more damage than good. He said handy advice can be found on the Coral Reef Alliance website www.coral.org.
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