By Shirley Wandera

Oceans cover about 71% of the Earth’s surface, which is almost three quarters. In their vastness and depths, they contain 321,003,271 cubic miles of water. That is 97% of all water found on our planet yet it remains one of the most under-explored and undervalued resources.

Girl Guides participating in the Beach Clean Up at Early Birds, Banda Beach. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD

The ocean which is a home to an array of marine life plays a critical role in the Blue Economy. A concept that is slowly gaining momentum worldwide as countries recognize and emphasize on the sustainable use of ocean resources to promote economic growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion.

Marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves, provide critical habitats for marine life and help regulate climate change. In addition to its ecological significance, the ocean provides a multitude of resources and benefits. Industries such as fisheries and tourism are dependent on the ocean. However, with increasing human activities leading to pollution, the state of the oceans is declining.

A volunteer helped by children to collect waste during a beach clean up. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD

For sustainable use of this resource and continued economic productivity, conservation is essential. Ocean conservation efforts can take many forms, from the establishment of marine protected areas to reduction of plastic pollution. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably utilize the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development, is one of the numerous initiatives trying to protect and restore marine ecosystems around the world.

One example in Mombasa is the recent beach clean-up exercise which took place at Early Birds Banda Beach early this month. The activity which saw the collection of 578kgs of plastic aims to reduce plastic waste segregation which significantly reduces marine pollution. This supports the growth of environment surrounding marine life, promoting bio-diversity allowing mariculture to thrive.

Volunteers dragging bags of waste during the beach clean up exercise at Early Birds Banda Beach. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD

“Ocean conservation is important for me because as you clean it, other people find it clean and keep it clean as well. It is my first time participating in a beach clean-up, it is fun and I would recommend it to my friends”, said Baraka Mjomba, a scout from PCEA Makupa Academy partaking in the beach-clean up.

The clean-up was not only graced by scouts, but also their sisters in the girl guide movement.

Scouts and Girl Guides from PCEA Makupa Academy taking part in the beach clean up at Early Birds Banda Beach. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD

“We do not have a frequency on when we do it, we come as a group, mobilizing girl guides to come and participate. As girl guides in the Coastal region, we take the front line in taking care of the environment, and we cannot do so by leaving out the ocean. It is part of our ecosystem”, Ivy Okisa from Kenya Girl Guides Association added.

According to Ali Ahmed, a member at Early Birds Banda, the challenge they face is low turn-out of the youth in participating in beach clean-up activities. “Takataka ni nyingi, lakini hakuna jukumu la vijana kujitokeza”. Loosely translated in English to “There is a lot of waste, but there is no drive among the youth to show up to these events”.

Baus Taka mascot taking part in the beach clean up at Early Birds Banda Beach. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD

Baus Taka Enterprises, founded by Dr. Tayba Hatimy, developed a mobile application which allows households to segregate plastic waste. The app also allows people to trade the plastic waste, for cash or for accumulated redeemable points, which can be exchanged for health services at partner health clinics. This is just one way to show the value that can be got from sustainable waste management.

An estimated 8 to 10 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean each year. This has a tremendous negative impact on marine life. A key element in ocean conservation is the reduction of plastic pollution through waste management initiatives like beach clean-ups.

Early Birds Banda Beach beach clean up participants. Photo: Ali Amiri – KD