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Mapping the world’s coral reefs

Understanding where coral reefs are and monitoring their changes is an important part of conserving these special marine habitats. Although they occupy just a small proportion of the world’s oceans, they harbour an enormous diversity of marine life. They also support the livelihoods of fishing communities and protect coastlines from the damaging effects of climate change.

On the doorstep of A Rocha Kenya’s field study centre, Mwamba, lies Watamu Marine National Park. Established in 1968, it is one of Kenya’s oldest marine parks. Over a period of three months, A Rocha Kenya’s marine team checked coral reefs in the park assigned to them by the the Allen Coral Atlas project and then used their SCUBA gear and research boat ‘Tewa’ to document specific details, such as percentage coral cover. Their data contributed to the development of a global map of coral reefs.

In September, maps of the world’s tropical, shallow coral reefs were completed, marking a major milestone for the Atlas. Thanks to this global collaboration of more than 450 teams who led expeditions and contributed data, we have information about this marine ecosystem in unprecedented detail, which are downloadable and accessible to all. Now organizations like A Rocha Kenya have a new tool to guide their conservation efforts.

 

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International Coastal Cleanup Day

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to our marine ecosystems. Over 8 million tonnes ends up in the ocean and in our rivers and lakes every year.

That’s why addressing the problem of marine plastics is such an important part of A Rocha’s conservation work. It’s a challenging task! But it is also an opportunity for hope and restoration.

Are you interested in understanding this global problem and partnering with others to care for our oceans?

Join A Rocha for the Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup Day on 18 September to help reduce plastic pollution and create waters of hope. Here are three ways you can take part:

  1. Join a local cleanup on 18 September and record the litter you collect using the Clean Swell app.
  2. If there isn’t one near you, organize your own cleanup on 18 September using our litter cleanup guide and record your collection in the the Clean Swell app, listing A Rocha as your group.
  3. If you can’t get to a cleanup on 18 September, take any day this month and clean up a beach or waterway near you.
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Shellfish harvesting in Semiahmoo Bay

Through the site of A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre runs the Little Campbell River – also called Tatalu in SENĆOŦEN, the language of the Semiahmoo First Nation people, whose traditional territory extends across the entire watershed.

The river flows into Semiahmoo Bay, which has historically been a shellfish harvesting site for several coastal communities, including the Semiahmoo First Nation. However, in recent decades, high fecal coliform levels in the bay have made it unfit for shellfish harvesting and the First Nations communities have been forced to abstain from practices that are integral to their cultures and traditional food security.

A Rocha Canada is working alongside Semiahmoo First Nation and other members of the Shared Waters Alliance to monitor water quality in several locations along the Tatalu and its tributaries. One of the starting points is to examine factors that are generally known to contribute to high fecal coliform levels in waterways, such as septic system discharges, runoff from agricultural land containing livestock waste, cross-connections between storm and sewage pipes, and pet waste. Alongside this research and monitoring, A Rocha Canada is working with landowners and local municipalities to discuss the extent of the issue and how to combat it. Our hope is that the Semiahmoo First Nation can one day resume the shellfish harvesting practices that have been such an integral part of their culture.

Photo: Tim Hall

Marine sampling in Southern France - Jo Calcutt

Taking on marine plastics

Plastic pollution continues to be a global problem. There are many ‘how to’ resources, but fewer that examine the role plastic plays in our Christian life. A Rocha’s Lead Marine Scientist Dr Robert Sluka has written a new Grove booklet called Marine Plastics which we hope will be useful for better understanding how plastic can play a positive role in healing our relationships: with God, each other, nature and ourselves. Copies can be ordered from the Grove Books website.

The booklet is a short examination of how plastic can heal or hurt relationships. Dr Sluka (Bob) examines plastic pollution considering biblical texts and the writings of several theologians, including Michael Northcott, Ellen Davis and Pope Francis. The epilogue looks at plastic in an age of Covid and broadens the discussion to Christian relief and development. The book points readers to A Rocha’s Plastics Toolbox for resources on how to practically address plastic pollution wherever we live.

Bob will be talking about his Grove booklet at an online event on 16 September. Register today to hear him speak and bring along your burning questions. Many A Rocha organizations will be conducting a plastic cleanup in September and taking part in the Great Global Nurdle Hunt in October. Contact your national office to find out what they are doing. If there are no events near you, perhaps you could lead one yourself and invite everyone along! Plastic is not the only issue impacting our planet, but it is one that we all need to be a part of solving.

Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets used as the raw material for making many of our plastic products. Photo: Benjamin Kelsey

Image of beach sampling by Jo Calcutt