Not many of us devote enough time to reducing our plastic footprint, perhaps because most of us aren't aware of the impact our discarded plastics have on the environment, and in particular, the ocean. As humans, we use over 300 million tons of new plastic every year, half of which we use only once. Eight million tons of this plastic waste ends up in the ocean.
For 2018, estimates show that we will use 5 trillion plastic bags worldwide by the end of the year – that’s a staggering 160,000 every second. Less than 1% of these bags are recycled – 1 ton of recycled plastic bags saves the energy equivalent of 11 barrels of oil. When you add the statistics for plastic straws, cups, water bottles, packaging and other single use plastics to this, it becomes clear that we have an urgent problem to address.
Over 700 species of marine life are known to suffer directly from the devastating effects of plastic pollution.
Sea birds and mammals consume plastic, and an increasing number starve when their stomachs are full of plastic waste. Studies reveal that an alarming 52% of sea turtles worldwide have ingested plastic debris.
The decisions we make on land concerning plastic usage ultimately affect the health and sustainability of our oceans and marine ecosystems.
One man who is trying to change all that is Keith Wetmore, the owner and skipper of Yacht Boaz, a 40-tonne motorised yacht with a build that lends itself to steady sailing and ocean going research. Keith is on a mission to raise awareness about plastic pollution through education and youth programmes, while conducting scientific research and connecting the youth of South Africa with the sea.
Over the past few months, we have been working closely with Keith to create a truly unique ethical volunteer experience for a truly worthwhile cause. In early April, we had the privilege of joining Keith and his crew for an inspiring day of sailing along the Cape Town coastline. Ed and seven lucky volunteers boarded Yacht Boaz on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. Coincidentally, Yacht Boaz's mission is supported by Cape Town's V&A Waterfront and the Two Ocean's Aquarium, who have been kind enough to provide a sheltered berth for the yacht right next to the aquarium in the heart of waterfront.
Over the course of the day, we were treated to wonderful hospitality, delicious food and incredible views, while learning more about Keith's goals and how we can support his mission with international volunteers. While anchored off Clifton Beach for lunch, our volunteers couldn't resist a swim, and we had many interested visitors from nearby yachts boarding to learn more about plastic pollution.
Through voyages along the South African coastline, Yacht Boaz is working to stem the tide of plastic entering the ocean, before it is too late. With volunteer assistance, Keith will be able to educate school students and consumers to become responsible users of plastic, so they can make informed decisions about how and when they use plastic, and become more aware of the impact their choices have on our oceans.
This volunteer project will include a two-week voyage from Cape Town, with a trip around the famous Cape of Good Hope, and visits to beautiful coastal towns like Hout Bay, Simons Town, Gordon’s Bay, Gansbaai and the world’s whale watching capital, Hermanus.
During the voyage, volunteers will learn to sail, collect research data, engage with marine scientists, assist with talks to school and community groups, visit a penguin colony, and meet volunteers engaged with penguin rehabilitation, shark and whale watching ecotours, and marine research. For free time, there are plenty of extra activities that can be organized too. While sailing, volunteers will be on the lookout for whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sunfish, albatross, sea skua, gannets and many other marine species.
An important element of this project will be community involvement and cultural exchange. The volunteer fee will help to sponsor young men and women from disadvantaged communities so that they can also join volunteers on these voyages, gain useful skills, learn about the oceans on their doorstep, and get involved with raising awareness about responsible plastic use. This is a wonderful opportunity for international volunteers to interact with someone from another culture, to learn from their experiences growing up in South Africa, and to form lifelong friendships.
If you can see yourself enjoying a once in a lifetime adventure at sea to promote a very important environmental message, look out for details on our website, Facebook and Instagram pages in early June!