This morning, visiting our fixed point photography locations at Gericke’s Point to get progress photographs of the reef condition, I decided to check under a shelf afterwards.
There is a colourful world beneath the waves the waves in the Garden Route National Park which requires protection from plastic and chemical pollution.
The marine life under the shelf is diverse and is associated with a small arch, both of which have a prolific community of sea fans, sponges, algae and other colourful fauna and flora with schools of fish continually on the lookout for a morsel of food.
I did not expect to see strands of woven plastic entangled on the reef.
The threat posed by this plastic pollution is twofold.
Firstly, it presents an entanglement threat to diving birds like Cape Cormorants which fish here.
Secondly, less direct, it will slowly break down into micro plastic particles and be ingested by a variety of marine life.
Tragically, most marine fauna tested in the area contain some level of micro plastics in their muscle tissue, a source of micro plastics which transfer to anyone who eats the ‘catch of the day’.
Municipalities and residents need to collaborate to stop the loss of plastic pollution into the ocean via rivers and municipal infrastructure.
Fixed point photography Site #1.
In 2014 the reef in this image was barren. When we started documenting the reef condition in 2019, it had recruited a healthy cover of sea fans. Since the first quarter of 2021, the red and corraline algae have started growing, as seen in the bottom left of the image.
Strandloper Project is investigating methods to regenerate damaged reefs at Gericke’s Point and other sites in the Garden Route.
Take a glimpse at the micro fauna on the reef
Countering Reef Damage
Reef regeneration around the world has been demonstrated to be both feasible and extremely effective in combating climate change related to coral reefs. In more temperate latitudes, while there are very few or no coral reefs, soft corals and other reef communities are also threatened by both direct and indirect processes of climate change. The Strandloper Project has been monitoring reef health at chosen sites in the Garden Route and is currently researching methods to cultivate and plant out sea fans, soft coral, eel grass and other marine flora to combat inshore reef damage caused by recreational fishing, lead poisoning and agricultural and chemical poisoning.
The Strandloper Project began as a group of citizen science volunteers to clean up recreational fishing debris from popular fishing sites in the Garden Route. Based in Sedgefield, they focused on reefs at Gericke’s point, in the Knysna Heads and in the Swartvlei Estuary. They have documented incidents of ghost fishing, avian entanglements, lead poisoning and physical reef damage caused by recreational fishing activities.
Expanding their research, they conduct coastal research expeditions and have surveyed 605km of the South African coastline for plastic pollution and fishing debris. Their baseline database has proved valuable for the 2020 nurdle spill that washed ashore from Nature’s Valley to Cape Point in October 2020. On their 2021 expedition, they were able to share real time data for the avian flu epidemic which decimated Cape Cormorant colonies in the Western Cape as well as contribute data on Cape Fur Seal fatalities along their expedition route. For more details of their research programs, visit the Strandloper Project website from this link : Strandloper Project