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Oxford students, Seychellois team up to clean debris from remote island

Victoria, Seychelles | February 26, 2019, Tuesday @ 10:22 in Environment » GENERAL | By: Salifa Karapetyan Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 8403
Oxford students, Seychellois team up to clean debris from remote island

Waste ending up on the shores of outer islands of Seychelles like Aldabra are not necessarily from the island nation. (Seychelles Islands Foundation)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - Twelve volunteers from Seychelles and England are expected to remove 50 tonnes of plastics from Aldabra, one of the world’s largest atolls, during a five-week clean-up project.

The team will collect ocean debris from the beaches of the UNESCO world heritage site. These will later be collected and transported to a supply vessel with the help of the Seychelles Coast Guard.

The Aldabra Clean-Up Project is a collaboration between the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) and the University of Oxford. Seychelles and the University of Oxford are engaged in several research agreements.

The project officer, Jeremy Raguain, explained that having a team from the university has greatly helped with raising funds to make the project a reality. Altogether the team has been able to raise over $287,000 through fundraising activities and crowdsourcing. The initial goal was to raise $196,100.

It will cost the team $104,600 to charter a cargo boat to collect and transport the waste from Aldabra to the main island of Mahe. The atoll is located 1,000 km from Mahe, Seychelles' main island.

Aldabra is home to a population of endemic giant Aldabra tortoises and the nesting place for green turtles. Scientists have found that the over 150,000 giant tortoises of the islands are feeding off plastics that are making their way to the beaches. Turtle hatchlings struggle to reach the sea because of the debris in the sand.

“This is more than just a big beach cleaning -- we want people to think about single-use plastic in their daily lives, whether they are straws and bottles. We need to find a way to move away from them and think about the environment as a whole,” said Raguain.

The team members for the Aldabra clean up with President Danny Faure and other high officials at State House prior to their departure last Friday. (Thomas Meriton) Photo License: CC-BY

According to findings on Plastic Oceans, over eight million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Waste ending up on the shores of outer islands of Seychelles are not necessarily from the island nation in the western Indian Ocean. Some marine debris can originate from other countries, washed to the shores of Seychelles’ islands by ocean currents.

Talking about her expectation for the project, zoology student, Martyna Syposz, said that she is hoping to see a lot of birds as she is a seabird researcher.

“When it comes to the cleaning up, I really hope that we will be able to manage to clean up more than we are hoping for and take it off the island. I hope that the weather will allow us to do that,” said Syposz.

She added that though she might struggle with the heat, she looks forward to living remotely.

A Seychellois volunteer, Craig Francourt, said that this is an amazing opportunity to go to a place that not many Seychellois will get to go to.

“On a personal level, it will definitely be a challenge. You can speak to people and understand briefly some of the physical challenges that we can face on Aldabra but you won’t fully know until you experience it yourself, so I will definitely be pushing myself in that sense,” said Francourt.

He added that “it is also an amazing opportunity to be a part of the solution as well, particularly in our country where we tend to be very problem-focused so this is a great opportunity to be a part of a meaningful solution.”

The Seychellois volunteers were chosen through a video competition that was launched in May last year, which saw the submission of 20 videos. The six graduate students in biological and materials sciences of the University of Oxford are all young conservationists. 

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Tags: Aldabra Clean-Up Project, University of Oxford

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