A HELPING HAND FOR THE TYRRHENIAN
In partnership with: CIRSPE (Centro Italiano Ricerche e Studi sulla Pesca)
Our oceans are becoming landfills. Instead of driving the economy, goods produced for profit are clogging up beaches and seas. As one of the fastest growing threats to marine and human health, marine debris needs to be tackled…now.
Our seas are turning into cloudy soups. Litter that ends up in the sea is forming garbage patches, washing up on our shores, injuring and entangling animals, altering the ecosystem and potentially harming our health. With 80% of the accumulated debris made up of non-biodegradable plastics, breaking down into tinier pieces, the problem is destined to get worse.
Most of this trash is human-induced from land-based sources and marine activities such as fishing, aquaculture, shipping and illegal dumping at sea.
Since removing the garbage patches would be impossible for reasons of responsibility and cost, the challenges are twofold: to stop the patches from growing and to change the behavioural patterns causing the problem. CIRSPE intends to affect such change through intensive education and awareness actions, steering people and industry towards more reusable materials, more sustainable behaviour and better waste management practices.
The Mediterranean situation in particular is compounded by the region’s geography and by the huge effect of human activities on local coastlines. Research has identified it as an accumulation zone with a plastic particle distribution and density largely equivalent to five global gyres. The European Union is responding to this with legislative instruments and directives, and CIRSPE has translated these indications into a targeted grassroots campaign capable of reversing the degradation of the central and northern Tyrrhenian Sea.
This project is about informing and enabling people to look after the coastlines and waterways they love. By actively involving all stakeholders CIRSPE aims to coordinate and support coastal educational programmes, public awareness campaigns and clean-up events at sea and on beaches in Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio. Learning and long-term behavioural change will pass through hands-on activities to develop a real understanding of the impact litter, fishing and shipping activities have on the environment and how this can be reduced.
In order to phase out pollution and encourage behavioural change, the project aims to reach 1200 school pupils, their families and teachers, and all stakeholders across the socio-economic spectrum in coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio.
In module I, CIRSPE educators will run seminars in six lower secondary classes to explain the impact waste has on marine eco-systems. Using slides, videos and leaflets pupils will learn how plastic is made and the risk is poses to human and marine life. To encourage smart sustainability, competitions will be run to design recycling projects, no-littering slogans and an organic dish to be served in local restaurants using local ingredients. Each year, students will also take part in a clean-up event at their nearest beach. Through treasure hunts, they will explore and observe how man has changed the landscape, collecting and classifying waste in the process.
Module II will roll out actions to clean up the central and northern sections of the Tyrrhenian sea and to encourage individuals, land-based businesses and the fishing industry at large to adopt more sustainable practices. Ten trips will be made each year, using local fishing boats and equipment, to gather and record waste lying on the sea bottom. A further three trips will see local divers, anglers and port authorities help remove waste floating on the surface. All practical actions will be supported by five-hour seminars, three each year, to discuss waste management, man’s impact on the environment, and the transition towards biodegradable materials and bioplastics. Input from the scientific and research community, and from environmental associations will also be sought.
The results of all actions and activities will be championed by local authorities and across the media in order to raise awareness of environmental issues in the general public. The message will be further amplified through the publication of 10,000 brochures and posts on a dedicated Facebook page.