The growing amount of litter found in oceans around Africa, the lack of understanding about ways of combating marine debris, and the need for a unified plan to tackle the problem on the continent will be high on the agenda during the forthcoming Second African Marine Debris Summit.

This year’s Summit, which takes place from 3-5 June 2015 in Cape Town, aims to establish a Southern African network that will increase research and awareness around the topic of marine debris, as well as launch new actions that quickly and dramatically reduce the amount of pollution found in the oceans.

Why an African Marine Debris Conference?

Marine debris is an international concern not only because it washes up on beaches and shorelines worldwide, but also because debris can be transferred from one country serving as a vector for alien animals and plants to another via ocean currents.

As African economies grow, unfortunately the ills associated with such an expansion are also increasingly reported.

Researchers are finding that the world’s oceans and waterways are constantly polluted with a wide variety of marine debris ranging from cans and plastic bags to derelict fishing gear and abandoned vessels.

Many animals, such as sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, have been known to ingest and get entangled in marine debris, which may lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, intestinal blockage, starvation, and even death.

Programme and speakers

The scope of this year’s Summit will be narrower than the last, focusing more on Southern Africa than Africa.

The Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme and the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission – two strong and established oceanic networks in Southern Africa – will be used as a platform for establishing additional networks and information sharing.

Included in this potential network of industry stakeholders are Plastics SA, Angolan government officials and animal welfare members, the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project, and additional representatives from Mozambique and Tanzania.

The first day of the Summit (Wednesday, 3 June 2015) will be a closed event during which a draft marine litter action plan for Africa will be drawn up for presentation later during the Summit.

For day 2 and 3 of the event (4-5 June 2015), a combination of internationally renowned and local experts have to share the latest research and best practice models.

The Marine Debris Summit is hosted by Plastics SA, in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).