project news

From bottle tops to flip flops

News item submitted by Frontier
News item dated 8 Jul 2009


Inspired by the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch scheme, the team from Frontier Madagascar’s Marine Research Project have been working alongside students from Diego Suarez University to tackle marine litter on the beaches of the world’s second largest natural bay.

In early 2009 staff and research assistants from Frontier Madagascar’s Marine Research Project took to the beaches and cleaned nearly 1km of the Northwest shore of Diego Suarez Bay, filling 8 rice sacks and collecting over 3000 items of litter. Plastic was the major source of pollution, with small (less than 5cm) plastic items comprising over half of all the debris. Amongst the more mundane rubbish were a remarkable number of shoes and flip-flops – 226 in total, none of which were pairs!

There are good reasons to reduce marine litter and protect the wildlife of Diego Suarez Bay. The bay is a valuable haven for Indian Ocean marine life. Its sizeable seagrass beds provide a rich feeding ground for populations of loggerhead and green turtles. The bay welcomes passing whales and dolphins and its extensive coral reefs support a multitude of fish and invertebrate species, which in turn sustain a considerable seabird population. Furthermore, many local people depend upon the bay for sustenance or income from fishing or tourism.

When invited to speak at Diego Suarez University, Josie Pegg of Frontier, chose a topic close to home – that of marine litter and its environmental effect. This triggered a lively debate amongst the students many of whom had previously given the issue of marine litter little thought. Many were in equal parts amused and impressed by the novel idea of cleaning a beach of its litter.

Inspired to take action, the students organised their own beach-clean. On a sultry Saturday morning the students, joined by the Frontier team, tackled a section of the shore adjacent to the university in the Southeast region of the bay. The litter collection drew interest from local residents and fishermen, who the students were keen to enlighten. Eight rice sacks were filled with rubbish. Rather fewer flip-flops were encountered in this area of the bay but a somewhat alarming number of underpants were retrieved – we can only hope a large proportion of Diego Suarez’s populace are not now going commando!

Shocked by the amount of litter on their doorstep, the students have formed a Conservation Club – their aim to address Diego Suarez Bay’s litter problem, both at its root and through practical work on the ground, starting by cleaning up their own University Campus.

Given the energy and enthusiasm of the students, with the continued support of Frontier Madagascar, the future of Diego Suarez Bay looks brighter, cleaner and perhaps ultimately free from stray clothing and footwear.

Read more about our Madagascar marine project