Marine waste monitoring training in Vanuatu

A group of students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Port Vila were trained in marine waste monitoring organised by the UK's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and USP.

Led by international marine waste expert, Dr Thomas Maes, the marine waste monitoring as part of the Commonwealth Marine Economies programme included an inspiring presentation on marine waste to an audience of students at the Emalus campus of USP in Port Vila.

At the presentation, Dr Maes highlighted the global issue of marine waste, particularly marine plastic waste.

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The students from the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Port Vila carrying out marine waste monitoring. Photo: PEBACC

"Marine waste is an increasing problem globally, and Vanuatu is no exception." Dr Maes said.

SPREP's PEBACC Vanuatu Country Manager, Mr. David Loubser observed that the presentation was a great awareness raising activity as many of the students had not realised that marine waste is an issue in Vanuatu.

The USP awareness was followed by a field trip to Eton beach to teach the students how to monitor the levels of marine waste on beaches around Vanuatu.

Using the OSPAR (Oslo and Paris Convention) methodologies, the students learned how to identify and record waste following international standards and guidelines.

Mr. Loubser noted that even on a "clean" beach such as Eton, which was cared for by the community, waste was an issue.

Accordingly to Dr Maes "there was quite high levels of micro-plastics on the beach, which indicates the plastics had been in the water for a long time, and had most likely come from far afield, not from local sources."

"This shows the global nature of the problem." Dr Maes added.

It is now expected that the students, will continue this monitoring on a monthly basis, supported by USP and SPREP.

Dr Maes is expected to return to Vanuatu in October 2017 to continue work on this project.

CEFAS under the CME programme is focused on water quality monitoring, seagrass mapping and marine waste monitoring in 2017. SPREP signed an MOU in 2016 to support CEFAS in the implementation of the CME programme in Vanuatu and across the region.

SPREP's office in Port Vila is the project office for the Pacific Ecosystem Based Adaptation to Climate Change (PEBACC) project in Vanuatu. However, it is also a resource for all SPREP projects in the country.

The PEBACC project focusses on strengthening and protecting the role of natural ecosystem services to enhance resilience with activities in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The marine waste monitoring is an awareness to the students about the importance of managing coastal ecosystems to ensure their continued resilience in the face of climate change, and continued provision of services to the people.

The PEBACC project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and is implemented by SPREP in partnership with the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

For more information contact Mr. David Loubser, PEBACC Vanuatu Country Manager at davel@sprep.org
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