PORT ELIZABETH: 26 April 2018
The global war against oceans plastic pollution has been given yet another boost with the launch of a new plastic waste academy in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this week.
The African Marine Waste Network Academy, an initiative of the Sustainable Seas Trust and funded by the Norwegian government, was launched at a day long ceremony held at the Nelson Mandela University on Tuesday, 24 April 2018.
The Nelson Mandela University is settled on the seashore of the Indian Ocean, one of three oceans surrounding the country at the most southern tip of Africa – the Southern Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean to the west – and which together combine to form a 3200 kilometer coastline and attaching to which is a 1.5 million square kilometers (km²) of an exclusive economic zone to which South Africa has control.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has direct statutory responsibility for environmental integrity of this vast ocean space particularly in terms of pollution prevention by sea going vessels, inclusive of plastic waste.
In Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, it was announced that the new African Marine Waste Network Academy’s work will involve research, education and capacity building, economic incentives and enterprises development as well as communication and networking.
Guests attending the launch included Norway’s Ambassador to South Africa, Ms Trine Skymoen, British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dr John Wade-Smith, academics from South Africa and Norway among whom were the Nelson Mandela University Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Leitch, director of the African Marine Waste Networking group and CEO of Sustainable Seas Trust, Dr Anthony Ribbink and about 70 others, among them government, non-government, business and civil sectors representatives.
In a statement announcing the launch this week, the partners to the initiative described the setting up of the academy for the Africa region as a timely intervention especially in a continent fast assuming the dubious ranking of having the most polluted marine and maritime environment.
Apparently, no less than 700 kilograms of plastic waste was entering and accumulating in the seas on a daily basis, it emerged, with predictions that the mass of plastics in the oceans around the world would exceed that of fish in only 30 years from now.
“Plastic has a detrimental impact on all marine life and our environment and this negatively affects the livelihood of millions of people and society at large. The African Marine Waste Network was established in 2016 to address the issue of marine waste at pan-African level, and aims to facilitate collaboration between people and organizations across borders,’ said the parties in the statement.
In 2017, the city of Port Elizabeth hosted the first ever African Marine Plastic Pollution conference to focus the continent on the problem and in finding solutions going forward. Some 42 African countries since became members of the African Marine Waste Network group.
Last month in Pretoria, the Norwegian government announced a R1.3-million sponsorship for the launch and work of the new academy. This followed an announcement by the Norwegian government of a NOK150-million fund to be dedicated to fighting plastic pollution worldwide. At the time, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende said the Africa region would be one of the focus areas of the fund.
In Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, the parties to the African Marine Waste Network Academy initiative explained what the first priorities of the academy would be in the sponsorship period.
Among these will be the launch of a feasibility study in the Eastern Cape’s Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) area over a six months period to test ideas and develop proof of concepts.
“The feasibility study will involve cutting edge research to generate much needed data on the amount of waste in catchments, rivers and estuaries in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, deploying drones and other innovative technology to achieve this.
Norwegian ambassador to South Africa, Ms Trine Skymoen said lessons learned through the exercise will be shared “with a view to scale up and roll out long-term initiatives from 2019 to stem the flow of marine debris from Africa and its island states into the oceans.
‘Only by sharing the experiences and knowledge will we be able to find sustainable solutions to global challenges. Dr Ribbink and his team are leading the way to saving the oceans. Norway is proud to be a sponsor of SST and a partner to the African Marine Waste Network. We sincerely hope others too will support their activities,” said.
For a six minutes interview with Ms Skymoen, Click on the video below.