It's International Coastal Cleanup on 17 September – let's help give back to our oceans

Saturday 17 September is International Coastal Cleanup and you can help stop the "mermaid's tears" from falling – one piece of litter at a time. Take a walk on any beach, anywhere, and the plastic waste is immediately evident, but what happens to plastic litter if we don’t pick it up while we can still see it on the beach?

Litter pollution at Durban bay after recent heavy rains

Most littered plastic waste ultimately ends up at sea and as plastic does not fully break down, it ends up as small plastic pellets often referred to as “mermaid's tears”. Since they measure less than 5mm in diameter, these round, shiny mermaid's tears are almost impossible to clean up.

The smaller the pieces of plastic get, the more dangerous they are to marine organisms – it’s no wonder the mermaids are crying!

Mermaid’s tears are often so small that it takes a magnifying glass to see them and they are even found in filter feeding marine organisms like mussels, barnacles, lugworms and tiny crustaceans called amphipods.

Sea birds are just one species threatened by litter pollution

All sea creatures, from the largest to the smallest, are swallowing seawater containing toxic mermaid's tears and other forms of waste plastic. From whales, seals, fish, dolphins, turtles, sharks, crabs and birds to tiny zooplankton, plastic is greatly affecting marine life both on shore and off shore, whether by ingestion or due to entanglement. To many ocean inhabitants plastic pellets resemble fish eggs which form a favourite part of their diet, so they are unwittingly eaten.

Mandayi Msomi (10) from Durban, shows how each individual can help our oceans

Our oceans and coastlines are under unprecedented plastic attack and behind each and every piece of plastic litter is a human face.

International Coastal Cleanup is an opportunity for each one of us to give back to the ocean by helping to remove trash and debris from the world's beaches, rivers and estuaries – starting in our own back yard.

This year uShaka Marine World is taking the initiative a step further by encouraging South Africans to pick up plastic litter while they can still see it, regardless of whether you are in urban cities, rural villages walking along a river bank, in river estuaries or along the beach. 

“As individuals we might not be able to solve the ocean-wide pollution crisis, but we certainly can stop the single plastic bags we hold in our hands from ending up in the ocean. Take two kitchen gloves and a container with you on Saturday 17 September and spend just 10 minutes picking up litter wherever you are. The ocean will thank you,” says Jone Porter, Director of Education at uShaka Sea World.

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