By Maore Ithula
Kenya is Africa’s second worst polluter of oceanic waters, with much of the waste coming from leisure, a study by the International Ocean Conservation reveals.
With 91,000 pieces of solid waste picked from the countries’ coastal waters, Kenya came second to Nigeria where more than a million solid fragments were collected from its shoreline.
Globally, trash was collected and data recorded by about 400,000 volunteers, who combed local beaches and waterways.
The volunteers collected nearly three million kilogrammes of debris from 6,485 sites in 104 countries. In Kenya, much of the waste came from recreational activities, making leisure the biggest culprit in the accumulation of ocean solid waste.
Kenya is among five African countries that were involved in the 23rd International Coastal Clean-up, the largest volunteer effort of its kind.
Other African nations that were investigated are Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa.
The study raises concerns over environmental degradation and dangers facing marine life.
Despite South Africa’s extensive coastline and vast industrialisation and human activities compared to Kenya, its debris deposition was significantly lower.
The report offers a roadmap for ocean protection. It recommends that Africans change the way they dispose solid waste.
Researchers who took part in the study want governments in the continent to develop policies that prevent reckless disposal of solid waste.
Mr Fred Sewe, the local representative of International Coastal Clean-up, a group of volunteers concerned with the marine eco-system, says: "Some of the solid waste we collected in Kenya is curious in nature. It included more than 2,000 condoms and 1,004 shot gun shells.
Waste from hotels near the coastline and waterway activities also contributed."
He adds: "Leisure and entertainment result in debris such as plastics, beverage bottles, clothing, shoes, food wrappers and containers, straws and toys, ending up in the ocean," Sewe says.
"This is a sad indication of how casual we are when disposing of our waste."
This year’s report zeroes in on the hazardous impact of trash on wildlife and oceans in the wake of rising sea levels caused by global warming and acidification of rain, some of the most serious effects of climate change.
"Thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds and others are injured, or killed by trash in oceans. Leaky paint cans, empty yoghurt cups and abandoned fishing gear have led to suffocation of wildlife. Ingested trash cause choking, blockage of the digestive system or toxic poisoning," says Sewe.
The report says keeping oceans free of trash is one of the easiest ways to help slow their recession as they adapt to climate and changing ocean chemistry.
"From wildlife, like endangered sea turtles and the Hawaiian monk seal, to biologically rich ecosystems like coral reefs, life in the ocean will be healthier, more resilient and better able to adapt to climate change in the absence of debris-related impact," says Sewe.
Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Clean-up engages volunteer organisations and individuals to remove trash and debris from beaches and waterways to identify their sources, and to change human behaviour that causes marine debris in the first place.