Twenty volunteers rolled up their sleeves on Saturday, May 17th to clean up the beaches of Port Cros. For this “Ocean Initiative” event, volunteers combed the Fausse Monnaie and Port Man beaches looking for undesirable waste. A small team of divers also joined in the fun in Port Man bay.
The Tara Expeditions team joined members of the European Surfrider Foundation to promote awareness about plastic pollution. Yesterday’s “Ocean Initiative” in Port-Cros was initiated by the Surfrider Foundation. This type of event provides a compelling educational tool: volunteers assess the pollution themselves. A large quantity of detritus drifts onto the beaches of Port-Cros, even though it is a protected site, regularly cleaned by National Park officials.
After the collection was finished, participants gathered in Port-Cros harbor to do an inventory by sorting. Plastic was unfortunately rated among the most abundant waste: one hour of collection was enough to fill a 100 liter-bag with plastic garbage of all kinds, including 200 sticks from cotton swabs.
Marion Lourenço, a member of the foundation accompanying the group explained, “In fact, people throw them in the toilet — a completely inappropriate gesture!” But the presence of these sticks is nothing exceptional, since “80 % of the waste we find on our beaches comes from land.” Waste travels downstream, carried along by rivers that end in the ocean. Taranautes have observed the same phenomenon of pollution on every expedition: In January 2011, an onboard study revealed the presence of plastics even in Antarctic waters.
During this year’s Tara Mediterranean, scientists aboard the schooner will try to understand the impacts of plastic on the Mediterranean ecosystem. And more precisely, the impact of micro-plastics — very fine particles in colossal amounts that travel by ocean currents. Researchers will try to collect, quantify and identify these micro-fragments.
Faced with this problem, Marion from the Surfrider Foundation reminds us that the best waste is one that is not produced. This is the 4R rule: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle !