Monthly Archives: February 2017

Every Bit Counts with the Fishing Line Bin Project

Fishing line bins are simply, yet cleverly designed bins that are erected on poles along the coastline at popular fishing spots in order to make it simple for members of the public to dispose of any fishing line that they may need to discard or that they have picked up along the beach.

When you join the International Marine Volunteer programme you will also become involved in this conservation project by assembling fishing line bins or helping to patrol the coastline, participating in our beach pollution clean-up and monitoring project, emptying fishing line bins along the way.  We separate the fishing line from all the bits of kelp, stones and other rubbish so that its weight can be properly recorded and it is then stored for recycling.

There are several environmental, educational and aesthetic reasons why we initiated this important project:

By removing plastics from the environment, and thus from the food chain where they are consumed by animals unwittingly believing them to be food, we prevent a situation where toxins are released from the plastic and stored in the animals’ bodies, becoming increasingly concentrated as they move up through the food chain.  These toxins affect the immune system resulting in long term declines in body condition and increased susceptibility to illnesses.  In some cases an agonising death occurs due to the ingestion of a toxic cocktail from the mother’s milk in the case of the first offspring for marine mammals.

Removing fishing line also helps to prevent the entanglement of animals like birds, seals, dolphins, sharks and even some terrestrial animals that frequent the coastal zone.  Entanglements seldom come loose, usually tightening over time and resulting in loss of limbs, strangulation and death.

The physical presence of fishing line bins along our coastline contributes to education efforts to raise awareness about the importance of our project amongst locals and visitors using the coastal and harbour areas.  Fortunately most recreational and commercial fishermen know about the local bins and use them regularly.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust has an educational display and gives presentations about the project, and all the ecotourists and volunteers who come through our doors are exposed to the fishing line bin project.  Simply seeing the bins or hearing about them in presentations makes people think twice before they throw that little sweet wrapper on the ground, or walk past fishing line lying on the beach.

An often overlooked reason to pick up fishing line is an aesthetic one – man has a right to a clean natural environment and fishing line bins are an avenue to remove unsightly line from the beaches.

We don’t only make fishing line bins for our local area, our project partner John Kieser from Plastics SA is doing regular trips to distribute them in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and to all the Blue Flag beaches along our coastline.  He has been instrumental in arranging DPI Plastics to donate the material for us to use.  For this support we are extremely grateful!

At International Marine Volunteers we have a Samil 20, which is a 4-wheel drive vehicle, that allows us access to remote sections of the coast where our help is really needed to remove litter from the beaches, attend strandings of dead animals and search for creatures in distress, such as injured or oiled penguins.

Our intrepid Samil, taking us on marine warrior expeditions! [Photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

Some people may feel that projects like these are only a drop in the ocean considering what needs to be done to reverse the damage that man as a species has done to the planet.  However, we are of the firm belief that that EVERY BIT COUNTS and that, even if we weren’t involved in polluting the environment ourselves, every single one of us has a responsibility to help save the planet for future generations!

Meredith Thornton: IMV Manager

Kelp diving with International Marine Volunteers

International Marine Volunteers is based in such a beautiful part of the world, where the Agulhas and Benguela oceans mix around the southernmost tip of Africa.  The ocean here is productive and diverse and, while we spend most of our time offshore in search of great white sharks, whales, dolphins, seals and penguins, just on the other side of the rocks along our shore lies a secret world of beautiful creatures and plants just waiting to be discovered!

Beautiful views along the De Kelders’ coastline [photo credit: Hennie Odendal]

Kelp beds in less than 10m of water are a rich and exciting habitat for all sorts of creatures.  Kelp is also known as sea bamboo, or Ecklonia maxima, and these underwater plants play an integral role in the nearshore environment.  The forest of kelp fronds provide some protection from predators and the sun and is an excellent habitat for both fish and invertebrate species, like abalone, a highly-prized (and unfortunately intensively poached) mollusc.

Kelp is harvested at sea and collected along the beaches in South Africa and is used as feed for farmed abalone, fish and other animals, liquid fertiliser, alginate, a compost booster, moisture-retainer for agriculture and even as a dietary supplement for humans.

After a good day’s work, when time and weather allows, we head on down to De Kelders, a picturesque stretch of coast on the eastern shore of Walker Bay.  Donning wetsuits, masks, weight belts and fins we gather at the water’s edge and slide into the cool water with great excitement, and in some cases, a lot of nerves!

“I was a little bit nervous at first” said one of the volunteers, because there some sharks around, “but I soon realised that they weren’t going to mess with us and I felt like I was swimming through an underwater jungle!”

Soon everyone was enchanted by the brown-green kelp forest swaying in the swells, the many different fish sheltering amongst the fronds and the wide array of other species below us.

We see lots of species whilst down there, but the most regularly seen are the wildeperde, or  white and black zebra fish, blacktail, yellow-striped sea bream (which are apparently hallucinogenic if eaten!), rockfish, sea urchins, anemones, cushion stars and other starfish, abalone and alikreukel, also known as the giant turban snail.

Many of us are of course shark lovers so the pyjama shark, shy shark, spotted gully shark and raggies often steal the show!

“It was so much fun, and such a cool spot,” said another one of the volunteers excitedly, “I learnt lots about different species of marine life and also how to get through kelp with a weight belt and flippers!”

“It was kind of eerie in the kelp forest, but I enjoyed it never-the-less!”

“It was really pretty and so peaceful!”

And most importantly…“When can we go again?!”

Ring bubbles! [photo credit: Sandra Hoerbst]

Wow…how lucky we are to have such a nice opportunity, right on our doorstep, to pop our heads underwater and learn all about a whole other world!  At International Marine Volunteers our coordinators are passionate about the coastline, love the marine environment and welcome every opportunity to share their knowledge with our volunteers.

by Meredith Thornton: IMV Manager