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International Coastal Cleanup and World Cleanup Day – 17 September

Join A Rocha for the annual International Coastal Cleanup and World Cleanup Day this September. Founded by the Ocean Conservancy, International Coastal Cleanup Day inspires over 200,000 people every year to restore beaches and waterways. Plastic pollution is one of many threats to our marine ecosystems, with over 8 million tonnes of plastic waste polluting our oceans, rivers and lakes each year.

Dr Robert Sluka, Lead Scientist of A Rocha’s Marine Conservation Programme explains in the video why Christians should care about plastics:

‘God commanded us to take care of the world he’s made… If we are going to love God and obey him by taking care of what he’s made, we need to do something about the plastic problem. We also need to love our neighbour. In order to love your neighbour better we have to think about how we use plastic, where it’s going and what’s happening to it.’

On 17 September, whether you live by an ocean or not, you can join A Rocha’s Marine Conservation Programme in this cleanup effort to help reduce plastic waste and create waters of hope! All waterways are important, and you can do a cleanup wherever you are – at the ocean, river, lake, park or even your neighbourhood!

Here are three ways you can get involved:

1. Join a local cleanup on 17 September and record the litter you collect using the Clean Swell app. Check with local environmental organizations to find cleanup events in your area.

2. If there isn’t a cleanup event near you, organize your own on 17 September with A Rocha’s litter cleanup guide and record your collection in the Clean Swell app, listing A Rocha as your group.

3. If you can’t get to a cleanup on 17 September, take any day this month and clean up a beach, waterway or neighbourhood near you.

Be sure to share your efforts on social media to inspire others to care for our oceans and waterways by using the hashtags: #ARochaMarine #WatersofHope and #WorldCleanupDay

A Rocha also provides additional resources to engage your church and community around plastic waste reduction. See our Plastics Toolbox for free resources to help you contribute to global efforts to fight plastic pollution. Resources include videos, a cleanup guide, devotionals and Bible studies in multiple languages.

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray

Rays at risk

Rays are a group of fish whose bodies are flattened and have a skeleton made of cartilage – the same material that forms much of human ears and noses. They occur throughout the world except at the poles. Similar to sharks, rays are targeted by fishers and overfishing is causing a global decline in abundance. A recent study found that rays are even more threatened than shark species: using IUCN criterion, 36% of rays are considered threatened compared to 31% for sharks[1]. These beautiful creatures are particularly threatened in the tropics and subtropics, and several find their home in Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) where A Rocha Kenya assists local managers in protecting threatened ray species.

Six ray species and one guitarfish, which are technically rays, inhabit WMNP based on A Rocha’s research over the past 10 years[2]. The Shark Conservation Fund provided resources to study these species in more detail this past year, including education and livelihoods work among local fishers outside of WMNP.

Four methods were used to study these species: baited remote underwater video, timed swims, beach walks, and SCUBA surveys. Three of the rays were either Endangered or Critically Endangered and one species is considered Data Deficient with this study helping to better understand its threatened status. Rays were most often found in sandy and seagrass habitats, indicating the importance of these often-overlooked areas in WMNP where the focus has frequently been on coral reefs. Education events in eight local schools and among ten community groups helped children and adults better understand the beauty and value of these amazing species.


Mapping the world’s coral reefs

Understanding where coral reefs are and monitoring their changes is an important part of conserving these special marine habitats. Although they occupy just a small proportion of the world’s oceans, they harbour an enormous diversity of marine life. They also support the livelihoods of fishing communities and protect coastlines from the damaging effects of climate change.

On the doorstep of A Rocha Kenya’s field study centre, Mwamba, lies Watamu Marine National Park. Established in 1968, it is one of Kenya’s oldest marine parks. Over a period of three months, A Rocha Kenya’s marine team checked coral reefs in the park assigned to them by the the Allen Coral Atlas project and then used their SCUBA gear and research boat ‘Tewa’ to document specific details, such as percentage coral cover. Their data contributed to the development of a global map of coral reefs.

In September, maps of the world’s tropical, shallow coral reefs were completed, marking a major milestone for the Atlas. Thanks to this global collaboration of more than 450 teams who led expeditions and contributed data, we have information about this marine ecosystem in unprecedented detail, which are downloadable and accessible to all. Now organizations like A Rocha Kenya have a new tool to guide their conservation efforts.



International Coastal Cleanup Day

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to our marine ecosystems. Over 8 million tonnes ends up in the ocean and in our rivers and lakes every year.

That’s why addressing the problem of marine plastics is such an important part of A Rocha’s conservation work. It’s a challenging task! But it is also an opportunity for hope and restoration.

Are you interested in understanding this global problem and partnering with others to care for our oceans?

Join A Rocha for the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup Day on 18 September to help reduce plastic pollution and create waters of hope. Here are three ways you can take part:

  1. Join a local cleanup on 18 September and record the litter you collect using the Clean Swell app.
  2. If there isn’t one near you, organize your own cleanup on 18 September using our litter cleanup guide and record your collection in the the Clean Swell app, listing A Rocha as your group.
  3. If you can’t get to a cleanup on 18 September, take any day this month and clean up a beach or waterway near you.

Shellfish harvesting in Semiahmoo Bay

Through the site of A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre runs the Little Campbell River – also called Tatalu in SENĆOŦEN, the language of the Semiahmoo First Nation people, whose traditional territory extends across the entire watershed.

The river flows into Semiahmoo Bay, which has historically been a shellfish harvesting site for several coastal communities, including the Semiahmoo First Nation. However, in recent decades, high fecal coliform levels in the bay have made it unfit for shellfish harvesting and the First Nations communities have been forced to abstain from practices that are integral to their cultures and traditional food security.

A Rocha Canada is working alongside Semiahmoo First Nation and other members of the Shared Waters Alliance to monitor water quality in several locations along the Tatalu and its tributaries. One of the starting points is to examine factors that are generally known to contribute to high fecal coliform levels in waterways, such as septic system discharges, runoff from agricultural land containing livestock waste, cross-connections between storm and sewage pipes, and pet waste. Alongside this research and monitoring, A Rocha Canada is working with landowners and local municipalities to discuss the extent of the issue and how to combat it. Our hope is that the Semiahmoo First Nation can one day resume the shellfish harvesting practices that have been such an integral part of their culture.

Photo: Tim Hall

Marine sampling in Southern France - Jo Calcutt

Taking on marine plastics

Plastic pollution continues to be a global problem. There are many ‘how to’ resources, but fewer that examine the role plastic plays in our Christian life. A Rocha’s Lead Marine Scientist Dr Robert Sluka has written a new Grove booklet called Marine Plastics which we hope will be useful for better understanding how plastic can play a positive role in healing our relationships: with God, each other, nature and ourselves. Copies can be ordered from the Grove Books website.

The booklet is a short examination of how plastic can heal or hurt relationships. Dr Sluka (Bob) examines plastic pollution considering biblical texts and the writings of several theologians, including Michael Northcott, Ellen Davis and Pope Francis. The epilogue looks at plastic in an age of Covid and broadens the discussion to Christian relief and development. The book points readers to A Rocha’s Plastics Toolbox for resources on how to practically address plastic pollution wherever we live.

Bob will be talking about his Grove booklet at an online event on 16 September. Register today to hear him speak and bring along your burning questions. Many A Rocha organizations will be conducting a plastic cleanup in September and taking part in the Great Global Nurdle Hunt in October. Contact your national office to find out what they are doing. If there are no events near you, perhaps you could lead one yourself and invite everyone along! Plastic is not the only issue impacting our planet, but it is one that we all need to be a part of solving.

Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets used as the raw material for making many of our plastic products. Photo: Benjamin Kelsey

Image of beach sampling by Jo Calcutt