Marine debris and impacts on our coastline

The NVT monitors anthropogenic impacts on the coast in terms of marine debris and other litter. The methodology entails documenting the coordinates of both beach visitors and their litter. This allows us to accurately determine who our main beach users are and the proportion of litter each type of user leaves behind. 

A previous study indicated that picnickers (44%) and beach walkers (35%) constituted the highest percentage of beach users, with fishermen constituting only 10%. However, the items documented on the beach were predominantly fishing-related (39%). Consequently, the percentage of discarded fishing tackle (not including general waste such as food-packaging, cigarette butts, etc.) contributes disproportionately to the marine debris problem in Nature’s Valley. This is valuable data, as it provides a glimpse into a solution to the problem, which presumably stems from a lack of awareness. To combat this lack of knowledge, the NVT has rolled out a fisherman impact study that will focus on educating fishermen on various topics, such as marine debris, fishing regulations, the tagging of fish, etc.

Micro-plastics, along with cigarette butts, are being found on a regular basis on our beaches, and in large quantities. Even though there has been a decrease in the percentage of fishermen waste overall on our beaches during the past couple of years, the challenge tend to flare up every now and then. Clearly, new interventions had to be planned to address this problem.

To this end, the NVT created an interactive platform in 2018 covering the marine debris found on the Nature's Valley beach (Groot River to Salt River) and the Keurbooms beach.  Data on debris collected since 2017 has been captured and is now available on this interactive site, depicting concentrations of different types of debris and the location of problem areas. The data also shows patterns that indicate an increase in certain types of litter during peak holiday periods and a decrease when there are fewer beach users. Clearly, there is a need for increased awareness of and education on the threat litter poses to our coastline (especially during peak holiday periods) – an area in which the NVT can, undoubtedly, play a significant role. 

The majority of litter on beaches is ocean-derived micro-plastics. The NVT launched an additional project under the marine debris banner specifically looking at micro-plastics found on the beaches and inside the gut of birds and fish caught locally in our bay. The data collected from the bird dissections shows micro-plastics present in the intestinal tract, which inadvertently indicates that micro-plastics are present throughout the food chain. This impacts on the natural resource on which communities rely heavily for subsistence. Through its awareness and education programmes on the impact of marine debris and the need for proper disposal of waste, the NVT aims to reduce the amount of plastic that filters into our rivers, oceans and, ultimately, our wildlife. To this end, the NVT co-founded Renew Able Plett (a stakeholder-driven initiative supported by local NPOs, businesses and other groups) that will run positive, incentive-driven campaigns encouraging local businesses to reduce their use of single-use plastics. To date, 55 businesses have phased out at least two of the top five single-use plastic items found on local beaches.