World Oceans Day that falls on 8 June every year is celebrated around the world, to inspire action by emphasizing the need for conservation for oceans in peril. Consequently, the conservation focus of 2020 lies on calling world leaders to safeguard 30% of the blue planet through a network of highly protected areas by 2030 and this critical requirement is called 30×30.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, 2020’s events took place online or in a socially-distanced manner. The Pearl Protectors also participated in the global movement with multiple events to inspire ocean action.
An online art exhibition
The celebration started off with a call for artwork leading up to World Oceans Day. Submissions were open for all ages and could be of any technique or style of the artist’s choosing. The aim of this exhibition was drawing attention to 10 vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered marine life that either visit or are resident in the Sri Lankan waters.
On 8 June, The Pearl Protectors showcased more than 600 submissions of artwork on Facebook, Instagram and Behance (www.behance.net/worldoceanday); it is noteworthy that this is the only online artwork exhibition held in light of World Oceans Day in Sri Lanka.
Online symposium on marine conservation
In addition, The Pearl Protectors hosted an online symposium on 7 June that was broadcasted live via Facebook and YouTube with a panel of notable marine conservation experts including Dr Terney Pradeep Kumara (General Manager of the Marine Environment Protection Authority), Nishan Perera (Co-founder of the Blue Resources Trust), Chathurika Munasinghe (Lecturer – Department of Zoology, University of Peradeniya) and Ranil Nanayakkara (Co-founder of Biodiversity and Research and the University of Kelaniya).
All panellists highlighted the need for youth and the general public to engage in preserving the marine environment by educating themselves on activities that cause harm, breaking habits that contribute to plastic pollution and raising awareness among others to take action.
‘Plastic Seabeds of Sri Lanka’ documentary
According to research findings by the National Aquatic Research Agency (NARA), 80% of the seabed in the Western Province of Sri Lanka is polluted. The Pearl Protectors team took a lead in documenting the pollution in the Palagala reef area, off the coast of Colombo. The footage was captured in partnership with Island Scuba, a PADI Dive Center based in Colombo and Trincomalee.
The eye-opening video, which is now published on The Pearl Protectors Facebook page and on YouTube, reveals how generally used single-use plastic items such as sachets, polythene bags, food packaging have deposited on the seabed. The documentary acts a wake-up call to inspire action in reducing, refusing and reusing plastics that are detrimental to life below water.
Beach cleanup at Mount Lavinia
Following the beach nourishment project in Mount Lavinia, there was an unprecedented amount of plastic waste piling up on the coastal area leaving residents deeply concerned. The Pearl Protectors conducted a beach cleanup in the area to help prevent the waste from being deposited back in the marine environment.
While beach cleanups are not the solutions to the plastic crisis at hand, they certainly assist in assessing the magnitude of the problem and to maintain a clean coastal area which is essential for recreation, tourism and marine life. Additionally, this encourages volunteerism and youth engagement which we believe are vital to bringing about change at all levels.
Going forward, we plan to continue building an unstoppable current towards a plastic-free Sri Lanka and hope it would create ripples of inspiration for every citizen to make a difference.