The 2015 International Coastal Cleanup Day is happening on 19 September and this year, the Two Oceans Aquarium is heading to Melkbosstrand to remove debris from the marine environment. You are invited to join us!

It isn’t hard to argue that plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to the ocean’s wellbeing. Most recently, this video of an olive ridley sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose has gone viral – and for good reason. The needless suffering of this wild animal is a direct result of human carelessness. Please note, the following video contains graphic material. 

But plastic pollution isn’t only devastating overseas somewhere, far away from our daily lives. If you haven’t read the story of Bob's rollercoaster rehabilitation yet, here’s a short summary:

Bob on arrival from De Hoop Nature Reserve, about four hours drive from Cape Town. The injured animal was brought to the Aquarium by Darrell Anders from the Department of Environmental Affairs. Photo by Dr Georgina Cole

Bob the sub-adult green turtle was brought to us in a sorry state back in November 2014, bruised and floating (not normal) and also not eating. We X-rayed Bob, rehydrated the turtle and let it recover but then Bob’s condition suddenly deteriorated - the turtle was starting to show severe abnormal neurological signs and having difficulty breathing. It continually circled to the right and had lost sight in both eyes.

Bob gets a CT scan. Photo by Kevin Spiby

More medical care, including but not limited to creative fracture treatment, CT scans and tube-feeding, took place and after a few weeks Bob pooed out a pile of plastic. This included pieces of balloons, some still attached to their string and several other large bits of plastic.

The balloons Bob had swallowed. Photo by Renée Leeuwner

So you don’t have a soft spot for turtles?

Not only our heroes in a half shell are affected by plastic pollution. Seals are vulnerable to plastic pollution and nowhere is that more apparent than on our Seal Platform, where Aquarium staff labour to rid the harbour seals of massively uncomfortable and potentially deadly plastic nooses – uncut box bands, fishing line and packaging raffia.

Plastic bags are also a problem for harbour seals:

A seal with a bag trapped around its flipper, spotted outside the Aquarium. Photo by Vincent Calder

And for penguins:

Plastic bags have a detrimental affect on animals and the ocean. Photo courtesy of Two Oceans Aquarium

And all sea creatures – swimming, sliding or flying – that mistake plastic for food or, because of their inquisitive natures, become entangled in our mess.

Loggerhead hatchlings drift with the ocean currents. They mistake plastic for food. This one had half a gram of plastic in its body Unfortunately, it did not survive. Photo by Renée Leeuwner

International Coastal Cleanup Day is an initiative of the Ocean Conservancy, but there are a number of beach cleanup groups in and around Cape Town (for example, check out Cape Town Beach Cleanup) and you don’t need to wait until 19 September to get involved. In fact, you don’t even need to join a club! Every beach visit is an opportunity to clear marine debris up. Every piece of plastic removed from the beach lessens the odds of it affecting a creature of the deep.

Infographic courtesy Ocean Conservancy

This is our special invitation to you to join us on 19 September at Melkbosstrand.

What can you do to reduce marine debris?

  • Say NO to balloons.
  • Reduce your dependency on plastic by saying NO to single-use plastic bags.
  • Say NO to straws.
  • Have a look at our environmental campaigns, including Balloon Buster, Straws Suck and Rethink the Bag to learn more.
  • Join us on 19 September for International Coastal Cleanup Day.
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