Going beyond the call of duty for conservation

  • September 20, 2016 | Presha Soogrim

It's a well-known fact that conservation is not a nine-to-five job, for the issues that drive us do not stop at the end of a working day.

One of the main issues affecting our oceans and marine wildlife on a daily basis is marine pollution. It is most disheartening to read news on an almost daily basis about marine animals falling foul of pollution, either through ingestion or entanglement, often with fatal consequences.

uShaka Sea World focuses on alerting the public to the dangers of ocean pollution, but we are also driven by our passion for the ocean to do more to minimise the harmful effects of marine pollution.

Learners from a number of local schools arrived at uShaka Beach ready to clear the beach of plastic and other litter on International Coastal Cleanup day

Coastal clean-ups, such as International Coastal Cleanup are one way in which we can make a physical difference, not only by preventing litter entering the oceans, but by changing people's attitude to litter and littering. Although I was a regular volunteer at local beach clean-ups for many years, it was not until 2013 that I joined an official beach clean-up group.

In 2013, the KZN Beach Clean-Up was created to incorporate and encourage residents in the entire province of KwaZulu-Natal to take personal responsibility for what ends up in the ocean. We hold monthly clean-ups on the third Saturday of each month, and to date have collected over 6 000kg of litter (an outstanding accomplishment as our focus is on the smaller pieces of plastic). All the litter collected is weighed, documented and sent for recycling.

Learners who responded to the call for volunteers on International Coastal Cleanup day over the weekend

As a marine educator is it impossible not to get excited at the prospect of sharing my passion with young people. On the clean-ups, young “citizen scientists” are always eager to learn about the various types of litter and how they impact the oceans' health, and I am delighted to oblige and share my passion. I am grateful for the opportunity to show these young people the impact of litter as I feel this has more impact than by simply telling learners what should be done.

Over the years it has been most encouraging to see more and more of my SAAMBR colleagues and volunteers supporting these clean-ups. I am fortunate to work for an organisation like SAAMBR, which not only encourages, but empowers staff to explore  environmental challenges and find solutions to the planet’s problems, whether it’s organising beach clean-ups, planting trees or organising cake sales during our lunch breaks to raise funds to combat rhino poaching.

I once read that we cannot be effective environmental guardians or convince others of the importance of conservation if our own behaviour doesn't reflect our ideology, so we always need to lead by example.

The Deputy Mayor of eThekwini, Councillor Fawzia Peer, and representatives from the City’s Energy Office and Durban Solid Waste join learners from Addington Primary School at the recycling station at uShaka Sea World

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