Seychellois study ocean litter problem alongside other UNESCO World Heritage site managers

Representatives from Seychelles joined other marine managers and marine litter experts in the world’s first workshop to focus on littering in UNESCO World Heritage marine sites.

The workshop, which took place last month at the Island of Norderney in the Wadden Sea, a World Heritage marine site, gave countries managing these areas the chance to share best practices, clean-up campaigns and raising awareness.

Marine managers of the remote Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles, the Wadden Sea of Netherlands /Germany/ Denmark, the Brazilian Atlantic Islands — Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves, the Komodo National Park of Indonesia and Papahānaumokuākea of the United States, took part in the workshop.

Experts shared their expertise and experience with the World Heritage marine site managers on how to tackle marine litter that washes up on the beaches of these sites.

According to a press release from UNESCO, “In 2016, scientists determined that at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean each year and that, by 2050, the ocean might contain more plastic than fish.”

The director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, Mechtild Rössler, said that World Heritage sites are of global importance and require special protection to conserve and maintain their Outstanding Universal Value.

“With marine litter increasing every year, the potential impacts are of growing concern and require careful attention,” said Rössler.

Waste ending up on the shore of outer islands of Seychelles are not necessarily from the island nation in the western Indian Ocean. Some marine debris can originate from other countries, washed to the shores of Seychelles’ islands by ocean currents.

To tackle marine litter waste in Seychelles regular beach cleanups are organised by not-for-profit organisations. Aldabra — a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Seychelles — is a remote atoll and the team on the island is no match for the amount of trash washing on its shores.

In May this year, the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) launched the Aldabra Clean-Up Project looking to put together a team of 12 volunteers to clean up Aldabra which is home to a population of endemic giant Aldabra tortoises.

“The scale of the problem like we have in Seychelles is much bigger than in countries such as Demark, Netherlands and Germany. Their main problem is to collect the litter as they have recycling plants. For countries like Seychelles, the biggest challenge is disposing of the waste after they have been collected,” said Christina Quanz, the project coordinator of Aldabra Clean-Up Project.

Quanz, who attended the workshop, added that Seychelles needs to find alternative ways to deal with collected waste as the landfills are fast filling up.

“We have limited space on the landfill and the best option for Seychelles is to network with different partners to look into recycling technologies,” added Quanz.

It was outlined that marine debris is a global problem that needs global solutions.

“Such workshops provide a platform to create global awareness about the problem, making people realise how huge it is and that every individual has a role to play in solving it,” said Quanz.

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