GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - In the relatively relaxed restrictions of Level 1 lockdown, getting out of the house and into nature has become a necessary routine for most people to counter the limitations of Covid-19 life.
While most people are happy to head out for one or two hours of hiking or cycling at a time, the Strandloper Project team is currently fine-tuning their planning for Expedition 2020, a 12-day coastal trek between Nature's Valley and Wilderness to document washed-up fishing debris and plastic pollution.
Expedition leader Mark Discon says they will cover a distance of about 135km. "The coastline is mostly rocky with regular cliffs, scalloped bays and sloped geology which will make daily progress slow."
They are anticipating more strenuous hiking than during their 2019 expedition between Blombos and Wilderness. This year's itinerary will have shorter stages of between 8km and 15km per day. The survey will be conducted every 2km and 5km.
Marine mammal beachings, bird carcasses and unusual washed-up items will also be documented and captured with the CyberTracker application. "The value of the data collected cannot be underestimated for local conservation groups, conservancies along the route and even municipal authorities to better understand and manage plastic waste and devise strategies to reduce the loss of plastic into the oceans.
"Last year's data has been vital in pinpointing the source of plastic trash that washes up on the beaches between Victoria Bay and Buffalo Bay," says Dixon.
A new survey that the team is excited to add to the bouquet of surveys which will complement their daily dive surveys, is a BRUV (Baited Remoted Underwater Video) survey, used to collect data of fish populations and behaviour.
The value of a daily BRUV study during the expedition is that it has the potential to compare fish species composition and size variation along the coast flanking both the Titsikamma and Goukamma marine protected areas (MPA), which are established as a breeding area for fish. As the population increases in the MPA, dispersal fish move out and restock adjacent areas.
"The effect of lockdown on businesses has curtailed the extent of support that the expedition has received this year. Still, we have been amazed by how people value the function of the expedition and overwhelmed by the level of support in these challenging times," says Dixon.
Track the team's progress
The team of six will start trekking from Nature's Valley on Friday 2 October and finish in Wilderness on 13 October.
The public can track their progress live on their Find Me Spot account and learn about the expedition findings on their Facebook page. For more information about the expedition and their other marine research projects, visit the Strandloper Project website.
'We bring you the latest Garden Route, Hessequa, Karoo news'