As Debris Month of Action approaches Gemma White says it is time to roll up your sleeves and help sweep the seabed or keep the sand spick and span.
Whether your beach time is spent above the waves swimming and surfing, below them diving (or falling off said surfboard), or merely gazing out at them from the comfort of your beach towel, are we all agreed that taking care of the sea is everyone’s responsibility? Good. Enter Debris Month of Action this September, a time when even the most determined land lubber can help clear the rubbish from our beaches and waterways. (And while we’re at it, if you could stop digging your cigarette butts into the beach and leaving them there, that would be great too.)
‘The message we highlight is the negative impact of debris in our waters and the fact that it comes from the land, not just from ships,’ explains Kathleen Russell, committee coordinator for Emirates Diving Association (EDA) and owner of Al Mahara Diving Centre. ‘We have a responsibility to bring awareness to the community and invite anyone to join the project. We also have the annual Clean Up Arabia initiative, which is done in conjunction with the International Coastal Clean-up (ICC).’
Debris Month of Action is a global initiative attracting volunteers from around the world who download a survey kit to help them identify survey sites, record findings and share their actions, as well as charting progress on an action zone map.
‘Last year we carried out 30 clean-ups. Ten to 100 divers participated, as well as volunteers on land,’ says Kathleen. ‘We even have kayakers out with us to help. One of the biggest problems is cigarette butts and plastics – food containers, bottles.’
With estimates putting the amount of marine litter – dubbed ‘the ocean’s silent killer’ – entering international seas at Dhs34 million each year, the diving community has long been well-placed to see first-hand the detrimental effects abandoned rubbish and debris has on the marine environment.
‘We let our customers know about the clean- ups and about how the oceans support life on earth,’ says Sam Thomas, Dubai Aquarium Dive Centre manager.
‘We did a beach clean-up off Jumeirah Open Beach recently with two groups – one on the beach and the other in the water, all volunteers – and came away with thousands of drinks cans, cigarette butts and plastic bags; all of which we recorded.’
And all marine debris collected is weighed and classified with the stats posted in the Emirates Diving Association magazine.
‘We submit the information to groups who produce annual reports,’ adds Kathleen, ‘which we can then use to talk to the government and policy- makers to help with strategic planning and help better deal with marine debris.’
Download your Dive Against Debris survey kit or Dive Against Debris event organiser kit at www.projectaware.org. Visit www.divemahara.com or contact individual dive centres for their planned clean-up events.
Where to learn about the ocean in Dubai
Emirates Diving Association
Organising the annual Clean-Up Arabia campaign since 1995, the non-profit EDA supports a variety of marine-conservation campaigns and is involved in research on, among others, coral reefs in the area. Sign up on the website.
International Fund for Animal Welfare
The Dubai arm of this global initiative began in 2007 and works to educate on protecting wildlife from endangerment due to over-consumption and unsustainable trade. The group was also instrumental in working with Atlantis The Palm, to return Sammy, the 13ft whale shark back to her natural habitat.
Emirates Wildlife Society with the World Wildlife Fund established the Marine Turtle Conservation Project in 2010, tagging turtles across the region, identifying feeding, nesting grounds and migration. It also educates on sustainable fishing and the Blue Flag Eco-Label project to identify beachwater quality.