Today we introduce you to Jana Leberl, a doctor from Germany, who seeks tounderstandtheconsequences of environmental pollutionforthe health ofhuman beings. Last year she got invited to go on an all-womansailingvoyage witheXXpedition to collect data on the plastic pollution of our oceancs. To share her insights from their trip she wrote a report for us,which we are happy to publish and share with you.
eXXpedition is a British NGO that aims to understand the plastic pollutionof the oceanand effectuatechanges on a global level.In cooperation with universities,theyundertake scientificstudies toinvestigate the problem first hand. The data is collected by women from all over the globe during asailingvoyage through the worlds biggest garbage islands,along specifically affected coasts and all the way up to the Arctic. These women are all connectedinan internationalnetwork ofocean ambassadors to support each other bringinguponchange in their respective communities.
This is Janas report about the all woman-voyage in December 2019
„Our voyagestarted on Aruba. After we all got to know each other and set up everything on board, westarted tocollecteddata for one of our studies straight away. For this project we counted and categorized litter items on landto understand where the plastic pieces come from and what ways they take into in the oceans.We split up in small teams and spread in Oranjenstadt, the capital of Aruba, to capture the different types of plastic waste at differentlocations.
In the afternoon we visited the first up-cycling centerof Aruba. The island residents get increasingly aware of the drastic pollution problem. Because the island is not really farmable,everything is imported - packed in plastic. The landfill that was set up 50 years ago rises over the edge, so there is a big need for alternatives,like the up-cycling center.
Unfortunately, wewerent invited to have a look at the condition of this landfill. But as we sailed down the coast the next morning, wepassed the huge trash pile, as itwas right next to the sea. Half of it was on fire, with pieces falling into the ocean.Only a few minuteslaterwe were greetd bya group of dolphins.
The following days, as we were sailing in the direction of Panama, we split up into small groups. Every four hours we switched between sailing, cooking and sleeping.In the afternoon weslowed down the boatto collect datafor our studies. One of itfocusedon micro plastic in the surface water. This examination actually was already done by a few other explorers.What makes our examination unique is that wecircumnavigate the globe,always using the same method. That makes the data reallyvaluable.
To collect the plastic waste we used a so-called„Manta-Trawl“, which is basically a net in the shape of a Manta ray. We left it in the water for 20 minutes beforepulling it backonboard tocollect all the plastic particles in a lengthyfilteringprocess.
Until the data is published I cannot make any official statements, but from our onboard experience we can already say, we fished plastic particles out of the surfacewater, every single day from Plymouth to Panama.
What is shocking about this is, that it is assumed that only 0,5 % of the plastic waste floats on the surface, the rest of it probablyswimsin deeper waterlayersorsits on the seabed.
After a few daysof not seeing any landwe arrived intheSan Blas, an archipelago of more than 350 small islands that are covered with coconut palm trees and inhabited by the Kuna Yala, one of the last indigenous tribes of the region.
In order to ask for allowance to collect samples from their waters and seabeds,we metwiththeir council of elders. After some considerations and discussionsabout the issue,we were allowed tocontinue with our research.While anchoring there, we also took the opportunityto learn about the locals persepctive of the issue.The goal of eXXpedition is not only to publish studies, but also to share our findings with the affected communitiesdirectly to help them find solutions.
The amount of plastic we saw was overwhelming. In the villages of Kuna Yala, the ground was covered with plastic shreds and cans. According to the village teacher, families regularly burn the plastic in front of their homes. In this processhighly toxicand potentially carcinogenic substances can be released.
Even on uninhabited islands the beaches were covered with plastic articles. Our plan to do a Beach Clean Upon one specificaly affected island,was discarded quitequickly whenwe realizedthat we would never be able to transport all theplastic to Panama on our boat. Instead we decided tojustclean a 10 meter sectionand countthe amount of typical items that could be found on a 100 meter stretch. Idecided to only look for Croc type plasticshoes for example and found 50 of them in haf an hour. We also collectedcountless plastic bottles, lighters, deodorants and milkcartons.
When we arrived in Panama a few days later we gave atalk about our trip to sailors, local politiciansandscience partners.That evening I learned from Panamas' former Minister of theEnvironment that the Kuna Yala will be resettled from their islands to Panama in 2020, as their islands are being flooded by the rising sea level.
This small nation, which was one of the few thatdefiedthe Spanish conquerors,had survived countless pirate raids and preserved its land and culture, is today notonly suffering from cocaine trade anda huge flood of plastic trash, but isalso losing its home due to the effectsofclimate change.“
MYMARINI really appreciates the work these women are doing- caring for our oceans and we of course we give a special thanks to Jana for writing the report and sharing her impressions with us.