ABOUT 270kg of plastic enters the sea every second. That’s 15 tons every minute. If something isn’t urgently done to manage plastic pollution, the amount of rubbish filling our oceans will outstrip the total weight of fish in the sea by 2050.
It is sobering statistics such as these that are galvanizing Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) to become a key player in the blue economy and,in this instance, support the efforts of the African Marine Waste Network.
The latter will be launched at the University on 25 July (see details below) as part of a United Nations drive to address marine waste at a Pan-African level.
NMMU hopes to become the “go-to” destination for all marine and maritime-related sciences research and skills development and is establishing a dedicated Ocean Sciences Campus – the first in South Africa.
“We look forward to taking critical steps in a collective effort to help Africa take its rightful place in the blue economy,” says NMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz.
The opportunity to host the launch of the African Marine Waste Network – and become a key player within the network – is part of that effort in assisting Africa to benefit from the untapped potential of the blue economy.
But not, emphasises Prof Swartz, to the detriment of marine biodiversity or sustainability.
The need for a network to tackle and manage the growing problem of waste in the world’s oceans, but especially Africa, was recognized some years ago.
Though the amount of debris entering the sea from South Africa or any other African country is not known, there is grave concern that the rapid development of the continent, coupled with poverty, will see waste accumulation outpace management.
According to the Sustainable Seas Trust which will be launching the network at NMMU’s South Campus Auditorium, Africa may soon become as badly polluted as South East Asia, which has the foulest record on the planet.
“We urgently need to find out how serious the African problems are, where they are and how to address them,” say organisers of the cross-boundary initiative supported by the private sector.
National and international experts will participate in a two-day planning workshop andlisten to public lectures as part of the launch celebrations.
The efforts of the network are directly related to the efforts of NMMU which is positioning itself nationally as the leading marine and marine university on the continent, and globally, with extensive local and international partnerships contributing to this innovative new trans-disciplinary campus and blue economy driver.
The Ocean Sciences Campus is part of the University’s strategic drive to spatially co-locate university, industry, business and government partners to develop and implement co-designed education, training, research, innovation and engagement initiatives that are geared to unlock the potential of South Africa’s oceans economy.
“Our strategy is to develop a whole new range of maritime and marine education, training, research, innovation and engagement programmes to support Africa’s blue economy,” says Prof Swartz.
The strategy includes undergraduate, postgraduate and trans-disciplinary qualifications and programmes, several of which are already offered at NMMU.
“With four of our six campuses located a few hundred metres from the sea, and within 25 kilometres of two major ports, Nelson MandelaMetropolitan University’s involvement and leadership role in the blue economy is imperative.
“We’re recognised for our leadership in generating cutting-edge knowledge and innovation that is already making a positive contribution towards the realisation of the economic potential of our oceans, while at the same time protecting South Africa’s marine biodiversity.”
The launch of the African Marine Waste Network will take place at NMMU’s South Campus Auditorium at 6.30pm
Buli ‘G will be the programme director. She will introduce the Vice-Chancellor of NMMU, Prof Derrick Swartz, Nelson Mandela Bay Councillor Rory Riordan, Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, Mr Anton Hanekom Executive Director of Plastics SA, Mr Kevin Hustler, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Ms Mandlakazi Skefile, CEO of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and keynote speaker Kristian Teleki from the Prince of Wales Foundation. To find out more about launch visit: http://www.sst.org.za/