Tag Archives: Conservation

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

Marine Volunteering is not just about the sea!

Our volunteers recently had the opportunity to help the Tortoise Sanctuary in Gansbaai. This is a non-profit rescue centre and our volunteers worked hard to make sure that all tortoises big and small, will be safe in their new enclosure. They built a new fence for them and once everything was ready they relocated the tortoises and it seems as if they are very happy in their new home!

The sanctuary aims to protect all species of tortoises. They offer permanent sanctuary to abandoned tortoises for the remainder of their lives. Tortoises are one of the oldest reptile species, they even survived the mighty dinosaur era! Just like so many other species, these little guys are also being threatened by human activity. They lose their habitat when we build new roads and other infrastructure, destroy ecosystems for mining and so the list goes on and on. Many tortoises die on our roads, and the illegal animal trade plays a huge role. Tortoises can get very old. The reason they have survived for so long is that they are well-adapted and can eat almost any plants, even poisonous ones. This is how they survive, even in water restricted areas. Tortoises do not have teeth, and they swallow whatever piece of plant they can bite off whole. These funny little creatures, who carry their homes on their backs, are so important for the ecosystem… they eat seeds, flowers, roots and leaves of all sorts of plants, depositing seeds elsewhere in a nice ball of dung, thus helping with seed dispersal and doing their bit to make sure that the different plant species do not end up on the endangered list too.

tortoises

According to the law in our country, no tortoises may be kept as pets, you are not allowed to sell them, and they are also not supposed to be imported or exported. The only time this are allowed is if you have a special permit from your nature conservation department. Next time you see one of these special little guys crossing the road…don’t just feel sorry for it and drive past, stop briefly to pick it up (but don’t lift it more than 20 cm off the ground) and put it on the side of the road where it was heading to in the first place, and wave it goodbye!

Marié Botha and Helena Schoonwinkel (IMV & Tortoise Sanctuary)

 

 

 

Helping to conserve the African Penguin

On Wednesday, 12th February 2014, instead of volunteering on Marine Dynamics’ shark cage diving boat, Slashfin, seven of our International Marine Volunteers had the privilege to visit one of the largest remaining African Penguin colonies in the world, Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.

International Marine Volunteers arive at Stony Point, Betty's Bay for a day of working for the conservation of the African Penguin.

International Marine Volunteers arive at Stony Point, Betty’s Bay for a day of working for the conservation of the African Penguin.

These visits are a fortnightly institution for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and the International Marine Volunteers. We help with the maintenance of this colony, assisting with alien vegetation clearing, placing of artificial homes for the penguin families and vegetative habitat mimicry.

Stony Point Seabird Monitor, Yvonne, addresses the Volunteers about their duties for the day.

Stony Point Seabird Monitor, Yvonne, addresses the Volunteers about their duties for the day.

Yvonne, Seabird Monitor at Stony Point, gave the volunteersa a private tour of the boardwalk, which meanders over the Penguin walkways to and from the ocean. This walkway provides excellent viewing of the African Penguins, and other seabirds nests, without disturbing or impacting on the birds in any specific way. After the innitial tour, Yvonne explained to the Volunteers what their duties for the day entials.

A quick history on the African Penguin, in their natural habitat they were once quite abundant and were able to burrow down into guano, creating adequate nests to shelter them from environmental factors. Then the guano was harvested off of the islands and sold commercially as fertilizer, and a component of gunpowder. As a direct result the penguins were unable to form nests and were forced to lay their eggs in open scrapings on hospitable terrain. The eggs that survived the forty-day incubation period yielded surviving chicks, but without the safety of a nest they simply became an easy meal for seals, and predatory birds.

Within the past thirty years, the population numbers have declined by ninety percent. The species is predicted to become extinct within the next ten to fifteen years if drastic action is not taken.

The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, that has vowed to save the African Penguin, has created a program that introduces artificial homes in which the penguins can nest and more successfully raise their chicks.

An African Penguin inspects one of the artificial nests installed through the Faces of Need project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

An African Penguin inspects one of the artificial nests installed through the Faces of Need project of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

Two years prior to our visit, a residential area was built across the street from the bay.

The penguins, which once had free reign of the entire area, were evicted from the neighborhood further limiting their available nesting grounds.

The penguins would still venture into the neighborhoods and became cat and dog food and even some were even killed by homeowners who considered them pests.

The International Marine Volunteers helping with the fence at Stony Point.

The International Marine Volunteers helping with the fence at Stony Point.

The main job during the volunteers visit was to finish building a fence in order to keep the penguins in the colony and keep the terrestrial predators, such as house cats, from stealing the newborn chicks from the nests.

It was hard work but very rewarding, knowing that the fence would help the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and Stoney Point save African Penguin lives, and promote the conservation of this species!