GARDEN ROUTE NEWS & VIDEO - On the coastline between Blombos and Mossel Bay, the stretch that is most polluted by far, is the 4,5km from Dana Bay Second Beach in the direction of Vleesbaai - and recreational fishermen are the culprits.
This is according to Mark Dixon of the Strandloper Project, who spoke to the Mossel Bay Advertiser early on Tuesday morning, 21 May, as a group of environmentalists made their way from Dana Bay along the beach to Pinnacle Point and eventually on to Mossel Bay.
The five environmentalists, scientists and enthusiasts embarked about a week ago from Blombos on the Strandloper Project Coastal Expedition that will end at Wilderness.
Their endeavours have resulted in a postgraduate student taking on a project on ghost fishing, something that has never been done before globally.
Dixon said the self-sponsored project resulted from a number of friends who met at Gericke's Point in Sedgefield and decided to take up the challenge to care for the marine environment by cleaning up and doing research on pollution from recreational fishing and plastic pollution along Southern Cape beaches.
Their focus is to create awareness of the effects of plastic pollution along the coast and to highlight the devastating effect of ghost fishing on the environment.
Ghostfishing.org defines the term thus: "What fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Nets, long lines, fish traps or any man-made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended, and without anyone profiting from the catches; they are affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks.
"Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious cycle."
Dixon estimates that lost fishing hooks have the potential of ghost fishing up to 10 fish, a senseless reduction of biodiversity. While ghost fishing attributed to commercial fishing - with trawl nets, long lines, and crab pots - is well studied, little data is available on the contribution of recreational fishing to ghost fishing.
Watch a video below:
This, the Strandloper Project team hopes to change. As the team members progress and cover approximately 20km per day, they dedicate time to research and capture data that will eventually form part of a number of scientific and popular documents.
The research results, they hope, will change popular behaviour and the manner in which people interact with the ocean.
They also intend to present their results to the authorities with the hope if influencing environmental legislation.
Along the local beaches, they have found an immense number of recreational fishing and plastic debris. In fact, Dixon refers to parts of the beach as dump sites, with recreational fishermen being the culprits.
"Thinking the sea will remove the rubbish is simply wrong," he said. Dixon said that on a 20m² piece of the beach more than 300 pieces of plastic were collected.
He said they deliberately chose the route from Blombos to Wilderness. "Blombos is the seat of human cognitive development. This stretch of beach is where humanity started with cognitive thought; it is important in terms of human origins. It was because of food from the ocean that the human brain was allowed to develop. Our intelligence comes from being dependent on the ocean.
"Now, as modern humans, we are destroying the ocean through our indiscriminate discarding of waste." He said it was necessary to refocus on the value of the ocean on everyday life.
The next phase of the project will be from Wilderness to Keurboomstrand, where evidence that is globally important in terms of human origins, has also been found.
Once the walking and collecting of data has been completed, the challenge will be to collate the information and research results into projects that they will enter into various competitions, notably one run by National Geographic, to ensure their message takes on a global presence.
For more on the project, click here.
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