CHANGING OUR PLASTIC PLANET
Over the last ten years, humans have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Most of the plastic we buy is just used once and throw away. A large amount of it ends up in our oceans, either via waterways or open dumping. Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such smaller segments called microplastics, these end up all over the world, drifting under water like a plastic soup. The long-term effects of this on the ecosystem are still unknown, but plastic pollution is fast becoming one of the most worrying environmental crises of our age.
For this reason, ALNITAK is dedicating a large amount of its conservation efforts to the reduction of plastic pollution. Through educational programs, citizen science projects and microplastic research, we’re committed to reducing the amount of plastic that reaches our seas and helping to create a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future for the next generation. The effects of plastic consumption are easy to see out on the water. Hundreds of thousands of marine animals are harmed each year by plastic debris, from sea turtles entangled in fishing nets, to fish swallowing plastic particles.
Below is a list of projects ALNITAK is running to help raise awareness about this global issue:
LIBERA is a project created by SEO/BirdLife, the leading environmental NGO in Spain, in partnership with Ecoembes, a non-profit environmental organization that promotes a circular economy by recycling packaging. One of LIBERA's projects this year is in collaboration with our research vessel, the Toftevaag, to help us investigate the distribution of marine debris in the Mediterranean.
This initiative’s main objective is to raise awareness, mobilizing citizens to help us keep our seas trash-free. LIBERA takes a three-pronged approach: information, prevention and participation. Information, because we need to understand more about the quantity, category and origin of waste; prevention, by raising awareness through educational campaigns; and participation, without the engagement of citizens, we can’t create a change.
On June 16, LIBERA is organizing 1m2 for Nature, a large-scale collaborative citizen science event, bringing together people from all over Spain for one day. The event mobilizes citizens to pick a spot in nature and clean and clear it from garbage, raising awareness, conserving spaces and collecting trash. It’s a day of spring-cleaning, but above all, it educates and inspires change.
Find out more on www.proyectolibera.org
Marine Litter Hub is a citizen science initiative between Asociación Vertidos Cero and our sister organization, KAI Marine Services, along with the collaboration of the recycling company Ecoembes. The aim is to involve as may people as possible in the gloabal issue of plastic waste, which threatens our environment, health and even our economy. One of the ways we are trying to achieve this is through a newly developed app: MARNOBA. This app allows sailors and beach goers to spot pieces of marine debris from beaches and floating above the water, and the data is shared with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and the Environment (MAPAMA).
In collaboration with the 5 Gyres Institute, we’ve acquired a manta trawl to allow us to investigate the presence of microplastic particles in the Mediterranean Sea. The manta trawl protocol is meant to produce a standardized measurement of plastic pollution in various areas of the world. A mesh net with holes of 5 microns or less is dragged at the side of the boat as it picks up particles just under the surface of the water. So far, we’ve found an alarming amount of plastic in what we thought were pristine natural reserves. Microplastic particles were usually part of larger pieces of debris, but the action of sunlight and waves have broken it down into smaller bits over time.
Entanglement is something we come across during our voyages a sea. It’s always alarming to see sea turtles or cetaceans stuck in abandoned fishing nets and ghost nets. We always endeavour to do whatever possible to help save these animals, giving them a second chance at life.
Our Changemakers At Sea Competition, in collaboration with Asociación Ondine and The Sea Musketeers, is empowering students in the Balearic Islands and beyond to fight plastic pollution. Teams of participants come together to find solutions to this global challenge, through social media campaigns, artwork, blogs, videos and more. The top four teams will be invited on board our research vessel for one week. During this week the students will experience life at sea, learn about marine science from the front line and dive deeper into the issue of plastic pollution and how we can mitigate it.