Desroches (one of the outer islands of the Seychelles archipelago) is famed for its natural beauty: its picture postcard perfect beaches, bright white powdery sand-lined with palm trees; its thriving underwater world, coral teaming with all manner of fish as far as the eye can see. Every day as we cycle around the island we are amazed by its beauty. Yet every day we are reminded that even this remote corner of the Indian Ocean isn’t excluded from the effects of climate change and global pollution. We see table corals as large as your dining room table, upside down on the seabed, a result of the bleaching event two years ago; we see fish aggregation devices made up of metal frames and excess net swept up in the wind and caught in the shallows on huge boulder corals, and we see plastic… We see lots and lots of plastic. Bottles, containers, lids. All kinds of plastic, from all over the world. Lining the tidelines of our beaches, hiding in the seagrass beds and stuck in corners of the reef.
But we also see life: we see coral recruits breaking through, eager to grow past that pesky algae and make their mark on the reef, we see turtles, dragging their huge bodies up the beach searching for the absolute perfect spot to lay their eggs, nothing less will do, to give their young the best chance of survival they can, we see fish courting, feeding and defending their territories, putting on impressive displays for keen-eyed snorkellers. And we see people: people of all ages, shapes, sizes, nationalities and backgrounds, people that come together to admire our incredible oceans. They pick up a plastic bottle here or a cigarette lighter there, they take home a basket full of bottle tops and old fishing line after an afternoon on the beach, they separate their waste into the recycling, they share a post on Facebook about alternatives to plastic, they will ask us to take them out snorkelling so they can see life on the reef first-hand and they ask us questions about how they can help and what they can do. And we see hope.
World Oceans Day is a global celebration for our incredible oceans. This year’s theme was preventing plastic pollution and encouraging healthy oceans. Here on Desroches, we got teams together to tackle our plastic. It’s not so difficult to inspire people to celebrate our oceans and help conserve them when we’re surrounded by the unbelievable blue of the Indian Ocean! We spent 4 hours scouring 7km of our beaches for all the litter we could find and ended up with 25 rubbish bags filled with over 200kg of litter. Five of those bags were disposable plastic bottles alone.
With more flip-flops than you could ever imagine (and still only 20% of our total beach clean haul) we created a larger than life-sized sculpture of an oceanic manta ray, before getting together to watch stunning images from last year’s Blue Planet II series and walking the beach in search of nesting green turtles and so much more.
Throughout the day people were amazed at all we’d discovered washed up on our shores and wondered where it had come from, why it was there, how it is happening and what they could do to help. As far as I can see, as long as people continue to ask how and why there is still hope for our incredible oceans. For some ways in which you can make changes to reduce your plastic usage to make a difference, why not sign up for our Wise Choices newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive top tips on reducing plastic pollution.