Save the Med Foundation envisions a clean and healthy Mediterranean Sea and works, through research, education and prevention, to recover its rich biodiversity and permit it to thrive in harmony with prospering, environmentally conscious and proactive local populations.
The Balearic Islands are a popular tourist destination and a hotspot for marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Plastic pollution affects sperm, fin and minke whales, dolphins, bluefin tuna, loggerhead turtles and marine birds including the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater. 99% of the marine turtles beached or rescued in the Balearics are affected by plastic pollution either through ingestion or entanglement. This project consists of 4 parallel, interconnected initiatives: 1. Clean ups with tourists and volunteers 2. Involving the school community in hands on beach cleans and solutions workshops. 3. Taking students working to reduce plastic pollution on research expeditions at sea to study marine wildlife, remove marine litter and help conduct research for species conservation 4. Empowering outdoor companies to raise awareness and organise clean up activities with their clients. The project aims to clean up 527km of land and sea.
With many thanks to EOCA member Vaude, for raising funds for this project through their online Advent 2020 fundraiser and their Earth Day 2021 Fundraiser.
Many thanks also to EOCA member Original BUFF for a substantial donation towards the funding of this project.
Summer 2020 – due to the pandemic, the Dos Manos project has had to adapt much of what it planned to do, including being more flexible with its schools programme, offering online and independent participatory sessions as well. Beach cleans and microplastic surveys have had to introduce strict safety measures alongside reduced group sizes and frequency meaning a lot less litter has been collected and studied that originally planned, but have still managed to involve 270 participants. The Balearic Islands are preparing for a ban on the sale of some of the most common types of single-use plastics, whilst at the same time seeing a new type of single use pollution emerging as a result of the pandemic.
On a more positive note, the project has seen a record number of students sign up to their Changemakers programme, showing a growing desire to be involved and make a difference in reducing single use plastic.
This project is now complete and, despite some cancellations necessary due to the pandemic, Save the Med Foundation were able to engage with over 2000 students during their 2021 school programme: 40 student groups removed 119kg of waste, items collected included various plastics (including microplastics), cigarette butts, ear bud sticks, lids, straws, ropes, bags, textiles, toys, masks, and gloves, etc. One of the main trends observed over the years is the continual large amounts of small to medium sized pieces of broken up plastics of all types. Bioplastic waste is also on the increase, and unfortunately waste related to the pandemic, such as face masks, has been a significant contributor to current pollution.
The Changemaker programme – a hands on initiative to engage students – was an enormous success. Team sizes were reduced due to covid restrictions, but a record number of teams signed up to the programme, each presenting a variety of ideas on how to reduce the use of plastic and raise awareness in their communities. Some of the successful projects joined Save the Med Foundation on a sailboat expedition in summer 2021. During this week long expedition students received training on how to identify and collect scientific data on pelagic marine species, carried out microplastic samples using a Manta Trawl, recovered plastics from the sea and learned about boat handling, sailing and life on board a ship. They became part of the crew and were responsible for tasks such as basic navigation, cleaning decks, preparing food, etc. An unforgettable experience for all involved, and some magnificent sightings of sea turtles, dolphins, tuna, manta rays, sunfish, and seabirds. Items recovered included: ghost gear, bottles, bags, microplastics (biggest) & other plastics.
A quote from a student on this expedition: “Despite knowing that there was a lot of plastic in the sea, I never imagined that it was as much as what we have seen these days. I have also learned about new species and animals that reside in the Balearic Sea, some we have seen and others not, but my curiosity about them has been ignited.”
The project’s sea expeditions removed pollution from 512km of ocean.
The project also piloted a Junior version of the Changemakers Programme, involving four classes from three schools. All teams presented impressive and measurable projects that they actively implemented in their schools. They focused on the direct reduction of plastics used in the students’ lunches and combined direct action with other creative initiatives to raise awareness on the topic of plastic pollution.
All projects can be found here.
Following the incredible success of the Changemaker programme, Save the Med Foundation will be introducing a version for university students. The aim is for students, closer to embarking on their career paths, to collaborate with investors and innovators to help turn their ideas into reality.
The final project activity involved the Ambassadors programme: an initiative to engage local outdoor companies, training them to carry out presentations and clean-ups with their clients to increase awareness whilst protecting the outdoor areas that they love to visit. Unfortunately, following the pandemic the initial company signed up to pilot this had to close their business. However, another company joined the programme and carried out four clean-up events with their employees, involving 70 participants and removing 3,800 objects from beaches in the area.
Save the Med Foundation will be continuing with all of its programmes to increase outreach and involvement of schools, communities, and outdoor companies. We wish Save the Med every success and look forward to seeing how their programmes develop and flourish over the coming years.