Every minute, the equivalent of one truckload of plastic is being dumped into the world’s oceans, and we are likely to have more plastics than fish in the oceans 30 years from now. Already mammals, birds and fish are including plastics in their diet – and it isn’t doing any of them any good!

 

Fish appear to be “stuffing themselves” on plastic, which is coated in bacteria and algae, mimicking their natural food sources. Mistaking the small particles for a high energy snack, fish gobble up most small plastic particles, according to research published by World Economic Forum.

 

Much of that plastic ends up in the guts of fish and other marine life, and ultimately on our dinner table.

 

Researchers have found that larval fish exposed to microplastic particles during development displayed changed behaviours and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates. The researchers discovered that larval perch that had access to microplastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankto

 

The every minute – adding up to more than 8 million metric tons every year emanating from the world's 192 coastal countries, based on 2010 data. Plastic production worldwide has grown steadily since then, and is expected to exceed 350 million metric tons this year. 

 

The bad news is that only 9% of this plastic is recycled – while the remaining 91% is becoming disturbingly visible around the world.

 

 

The good news is that the international community is analysing the health of our oceans and focusing on sustainable development goals– while national governments are implementing relevant strategies to remedy the situation. Clearly, sustainable development of the ocean economy is essential to the future welfare and prosperity of humankind – as pointed out in OECD’s The Ocean Economy in 2030.

 

Calls for action are being issued worldwide, and the African Marine Waste Network is spearheading efforts on the African continent. The recent South Africa – Norway Science Week 2017, which took place from 04-08 December in Pretoria and Cape Town made a contribution by encouraging and facilitating researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to be part of the solution.

 

The SA-Norway Science Week explores opportunities for both countries to further cooperation in education, research, innovation and new business development. South Africa and Norway have developed close ties over many years, and an era of cooperation in higher education and research has prevailed since the 1990s.

 

A University of Kwazulu-Natal study found that nearly 70% of small fish in the Durban harbour have plastic in their guts. The pollution affected all kinds of fish.

 

Ocean space and the blue economy is a strategic priority for both countries, providing a fertile basis for joint research, innovation, business and job creation. Annual high-level consultations between South Africa and Norway focus on areas of common economic and political interest – including the SANCOOP-program for research on climate change, environment and renewable energy – and Operation Phakisa, aiming to fast-track solutions on critical development issues in South Africa.

 

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) also signed a Declaration of Intent, launching a fourth bilateral South Africa – Norway research cooperation programme. The programme will have a strong focus on the blue economy, climate change, the environment and renewable energy, to be known as SANOCEAN.

 

The signing took place at the “Green Maritime’’ - Sustainable Use of the Ocean event which took place at the National Research Foundation (NRF) in Pretoria on December 6th 2017.  The event took place during the second SA-Norway Science Week.

 

Trine Skymoen, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, said in her opening remarks that the world’s oceans must be protected.

 

“Our oceans are facing a number of serious threats and challenges and these include over-fishing, illegal fishing, environmental toxins, plastic waste and loss of biodiversity. Climate change is impacting the oceans and may lead to sea level rise, ocean acidification and possible shifts in the distribution of important fish stocks. This in turn is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.”

 

She added that protection of this resource is critical and as the blue economy was important to increased economic growth through agriculture, fisheries and international shipping.

 

“Oceans and coasts are the foundation of much of the world’s economy. Oceans have an enormous potential for value creation and growth and we expect to see high growth in sectors such as energy, aquaculture, fisheries and fish processing. There are also opportunities in sectors such as port activities, ship building and repair as well as maritime equipment and shipping. International shipping will continue to play a key facility role in world trade and South Africa and Norway are cooperating very, very closely to look for opportunities in these areas.”