5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic are said to be floating in the
open ocean, weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.

Plastic debris makes up nearly 90% of all marine pollution.

The reason that this issue has arisen, is because plastic is where it shouldn’t be. It’s in the ocean, the rivers, along riverbanks, fence lines and on our beaches and it’s causing severe damage. As humans we are using more plastic than ever. It’s durable, cheap to produce, easy to discard and we’re consuming it at an overwhelming rate.

Approximately two-thirds of the plastic making its way into our oceans comes straight from land-based sources. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that litter left on the beach will one day end up in the sea. A lot of it is washed down rivers and drains, whenever it rains, from litter being dropped in towns and cities. Other contributors are large industry spills, badly managed landfill sites, uncleared bins in badly managed municipal areas near the coast and items flushed down the toilet. The remainder is lost at sea, such as shipping containers going overboard (the recent plague of nurdles being proof of that). A small percentage is also lost fishing gear. Plastic is cheap to manufacture and easy to obtain. It’s strong, flexible and durable, making it extremely useful. However, it never genuinely breaks down.

According to ongoing research, it is estimated that nearly 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans daily

Plastic pollution can cause catastrophic damage to our ocean life. It affects pretty much all animals across the globe in one way or another. To sealife like fish, dolphins, turtles, seabirds and seals it can be deadly as they become entwined or mistake it for food. We’ve all seen images of the remains of birds, fish and even whales, with stomachs full of plastic pieces because they accidentally ingested our irresponsibly discarded rubbish. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and discomfort experienced by an animal with its intestines choked up with plastic. We should feel embarrassed that we’re causing such problems due to our own greed and negligence. I have personally landed a shark off a beach in Cape Town with packaging tape cutting through its body. The fish was undernourished and its chances of survival after the removal of the packaging tape questionable.

I have fished in many places around the world. Litter isn’t only a South African issue, but a worldwide trend. I am appalled daily with the amount of rubbish left on our beaches or rocky outcrops – often bottles and plastic bags from late-night beach parties.

Fishermen are the ocean’s first line of defence. We need to set an example and speak out when we witness people leaving a mess. We need to educate people and create a trend of awareness. We also need to clean up after ourselves and even after others, if we must. Leave only footprints. If we start at ground level, we will have so much more clout when taking on the municipalities and institutions responsible.

If we don’t do anything, we will forever be the scapegoats and our seas will be depleted of all its beautiful creatures.

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