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Kep MFMA Zoning After 4 years of hard work, frustration, struggle, passion and dedication, the 11 354ha Kep MFMA was nationally proclaimed in April 2018. This was a huge step forward for the protection of the Kep Archipelago, and for Cambodia. 

Ocean Plastics

 

What is Plastic Pollution?
 

Plastic Pollution is the contamination of the environment by plastics. Plastics are synthetic organic materials produced by polymerisation. Worldwide plastic production has increased from 1.5 million tonnes a year in 1950 to 322 million tonnes a year in 2015. Due to rapid urbanisation and economic development in a market driven by consumerism and convenience, along with the relatively low price of plastic materials, there has been a rapid increase in the generation of waste plastics all over the world. This is a major environmental concern for three main reasons: dependence on fossil fuels, solid waste clogging up ecosystems and microplastics.

 

What are plastics?
 

One of the main characteristics of plastics is the fact that they come in many different shapes, colours, sizes and, most importantly, chemical compositions. This is a major problem when it comes to recycling, as the wrong type of plastic can contaminate recycling streams and not all types are recyclable.

Thanks to legislation, most plastics products are now labelled with symbols representing their chemical composition.  This can help sort them in to different categories, applications and properties.

 

Ocean Plastics are bad news

 

Why Plastics are a problem ?
 

At the moment, over 95% of plastics are produced from fossil fuels. Around 4 percent of oil consumed worldwide is used to make plastic, with another 4 percent being used in the manufacturing process. One of the leading contributors to climate change and habitat destruction around the world is the dependence on fossil fuels.

Plastics do not biodegrade: they do not decompose naturally in the environment. Plastic waste is either put in landfill where it can contaminate groundwater by leaching harmful chemicals, incinerated which releases toxic chemicals into the atmosphere (Dioxins, Furans, Mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyls), or littered. Because of plastic’s lightweight and durable nature, it is very likely to be swept into waterways, making its way from cities to the sea. Plastics reduce the productivity of natural systems such as the ocean.

Some scary stats:

•       The equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean every minute

•       If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050

•       In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight)

•       100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic pollution

 

Ocean Plastics just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Microplastics
 

In marine environments, the combined effects of UV radiation, chemical degradation, wave mechanics and grazing by marine life weakens plastics, causing them to fragment into increasingly smaller pieces known as microplastics. Microplastics can be found everywhere: from sea surface to the sea-floor, in deep-sea sediments and even in Arctic sea ice. They create a smog of debris in seawater and are mistaken for food by plankton, birds, fish and other marine animals. They have even been found in table salt, and the average shellfish consumer ingests 11,0000 microplastic particles a year. Microplastics soak up chemical additives and endocrine disruptors, and act as vectors for pathogenic bacteria. The complexity of estimating toxicity means potential risks to human health not yet known. Given the presence of heavy metals and other concerning chemicals, it is however wise to limit the entry of plastic into the food chain.

The fact that microplastics absorb endorcine disruptors means that when ingested, they can affect correct hormone function. Hormones in the human body regulate digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, lactation, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood.

Microfibres

 

Microfibre pollution is an example of how little we know about the extent of the plastic problem. Microfibres are microscopic fibres released into waste water systems by washing machines when we wash our clothes. They originate from a wide variety of synthetic textiles (such as nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic or spandex)—everything from running shorts to yoga pants to fleece jackets and more—which shows the need for engagement on this issue by the entire apparel industry and through all steps in the product life cycle.

Garments of a higher quality shed less in the wash than low-quality synthetic products, illustrating the importance for manufacturers and consumers alike to invest in gear built to last.

 

Where do plastics come from?
 

Plastics have many necessary and positive applications, such as food preservation, medical uses, and infrastructure. Most plastic waste does however not fall into this category. Almost 50% of all plastic waste is made up of ‘disposable’ single use-packaging. This is completely unnecessary: how can you call it disposable if it never goes away? 

 What are plastics used for

 

Some of the usual suspects include: cosmetics bottles and microbeads in exfoliant soap, bags, straws, bottles, cutlery, cups, wrappers, and take-away containers.

Food PackagingSoap and Shampoo containersPlastic bagsDrinking StrawsWater and soft drink BottlesPlastic Cutlery Plastic CupsOne use packaging

 

Although all this plastic is not designed or produced in Asia, 82% of leakage into the ocean occurs in Asia. This could be because of lack of infrastructure, waste management and recycling plants. Another reason for this is the extensive coastlines in this part of the world. Let’s not forget either that 87% of Europe’s ‘recycling’ gets sent to China. This increases the risk of spillage during transportation, and there is insufficient understanding of what happens to the waste plastics once they arrive in China, which raises concerns about the implications on local and global health and environment.

Plastic use

The Mekong river has been identified as one of the main rivers worldwide contributing to ocean plastics. This highlights the importance of implementing change in this part of the world. Changing behaviours through education, improving waste collection infrasctructures and introducing new legislation in Asia will prevent vast amounts of plastic waste from reaching the ocean. 

What can we do?
 

•       Demand stricter regulations

If enough of us make our governmental representatives realise how much we care about this issue, policy makers can influence producers and instigate widespread, far-reaching positive change. Signing petitions and staying informed is important. 

•       Spread awareness

Talking about the issue to friends and family, at work or at school, can help spread awareness.

•       Change behaviours

It is important for every individual to adopt new habits such as always carrying a reusable bottle, bag, and straw. 

•       Avoid single-use plastics

We can all help by avoiding single-use plastic in our day to day life. At the supermarket, choose products not wrapped in plastic.

•       Organise clean-ups

Leading by example and cleaning up your own local neighbourhood, beach or riverside can have a ripple effect on the community. By normalising the beahaviour of caring for the place we live in, others will start to do the same. 

What’s stopping personal change?

Psychological barriers to sustainable consumption
 

•       ‘Choices’ in consumption are in fact habitual behaviours

•       Consequences of consumption choices hard to see

•       Sustainable consumption may not seem personally relevant

•       Behaviour strongly influenced by social groups

•       Hard to follow through on sustainable choices

 

What is MCC doing?
 

MCC 

Non-profit organisations and grassroots campaigns can engage communities and influence policy makers.

Mass communication should not be limited to major high technology and professionalism. An example of alternative mass communication is street art. Street art here incorporates murals, posters, graffiti, placards, banners and stickers employed by collectives as a communication device for persuading and informing. Human emotions and political views can be shaped and moved by street art, which has a long political social history.

Therefore, MCC is working on a mural project in Kep, which will be accompanied by the dissemination of informative posters and at events relevant to the sea.

On the island of Koh Seh, arts and crafts with plastic from beach cleans are a creative and functional alternative to the incineration of them. we run daily clean ups around our island and organise large joint clean ups on Kep Mainland beaches.

Ocean Murals

 

We started small, but as the time has gone on we have managed to move on from patrolling and diving from small rented boats to our very own fleet, we call them the small, medium or large boat, or refer to them by the captains name such as Phon's Boat. Each vessel is fully registered and well maintained as they are needed for patrolling, diving and our supply and pick up runs to the mainland.

bigboatdrone

bigboatdrone2

The largest boat is 20mx5m and is the jewel of our fleet,

mediumboat

Next is the medium boat around 14mx3m and the most used of our boats,

speedboat

The Speed boat was donated by ICFC and is our fast response patrol boat and also there in case of any emergencies. We recently acquired a brand new 250hp Suzuki four stroke engine.

 

dive shed

Our marine research is very important so our scuba diving equipment is kept well maintained and there is a good selection of sizes, we all love to dive so everyone takes a hand in making sure the dive shed is looked after, for refills we run two large Bauer air compressors each of which is serviced yearly and has regular filter and oil changes. We all dive so we want our air to be tasting and smelling good.

Patrolling Against Illegal TrawlersSince 2008 we have been campaigning against the unsustainable and destructive bottom trawling in the shallow waters of Cambodia, that continues to devastate Cambodia's Marine Resources , According to Cambodian Fisheries Law Bottom Trawling is outlawed in all marine inshore areas, that means any areas shallower than 20m from the high tide line, this can be found in the revised 2006 Fisheries Law, under article 49, and Inshore areas are classified under article 11 as seen below.

Article 49.
Trawling in the inshore fishing areas shall be forbidden, except for the permission from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at the request of the Fisheries Administration to conduct scientific and technical researches.

Article 11.

The Marine Fishery Domain refers to marine water or brackish water that extends from the coastline at the highest high tide of the coastal lines to the outer limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Marine fishery domain is divided into: -Inshore fishing area, which extends from the coastline at higher high tide to the 20 meter deep line. - Offshore fishing area, which extends from the 20 meter deep line to the outer limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

 

Kep Ocean DepthsAfter Moving to Kep we also found that the trawlers here not only Trawl in areas Shallower than 20m, but that Kep's Waters (home to some of the largest Seagrass beds in SE Asia) are no deeper than 10m anywhere within the provincial waters. Now before you start thinking how awful the government or the authorities are for allowing this, you must first understand that until Thursday the 3rd of December 2015 Kep only had 4 officers and no patrol boat to tackle this issue, they had to rely on Kampot to send its boats and officers, which could take anything from 1-3hrs to arrive. When Kampot would run fisheries patrols a network of informants would inform the illegal fisheries and they would have time to head in and cease their activities leading to the conclusion that Kep had very little illegal fishing, but it was quite the opposite, infact it is well organised and has been run almost under cover for the past 10 years. Only because we are out there on the water everyday and every night, has it become clear to the extent of the problem and the damage it is causing. Our work and that of the previous volunteers has led not only to the creation of Keps own Fisheries office but also to provincial support on a major crackdown on illegal fishing.

 

 

Electric Fishing Gear Used on TrawlersWith that in mind, add to the fact that many of the Illegal trawlers are also using a system of electric that passes up to 1000 volts through the net to the sea floor, electrocuting everything within a few meter radius of the electric current.

Electric is also outlawed in Cambodia under Article 98. As a class 1 offence it carries the highest penalty of any fisheries offence.

Article 98

Shall be penalized under the fishery offences class 1 by imprisoning from three to five years and all evidence shall be confiscated for state property or destroyed and terminated of all agreement, licenses for any person who commits one of the following offenses:

4. Fishing with electrocuted fishing gears, explosive and all kinds of poisonous substances in the fishery domains.

 

 

Trawled up SeagrassThey also then trawl straight through Kep's Seagrass Beds ripping up vital habitat and taking with them any living creature bigger than 1cm, Trawing through Seagrass is also outlawed under Article 52.

Article 52. shall be prohibited:

1. Fishing or any form of exploitation which damages or disturbs the growth of sea grass or coral reef.

2. Collecting, buying, selling, transporting and stocking of corals.

3. Making port calls and anchoring in a coral reef area.

4. Destroying sea grass or coral by other activities.

 

The Fisheries Administration is desperately trying to tackle this issue, but even now with slightly more than their original limited resources and manpower it is a very very difficult job, Thats were we come in, Marine Conservation Cambodia and our volunteers patrol the ocean within Kep Provincial Waters and report all offences back to the fisheries department, after taking photos and video, and often chasing the trawlers out of the most sensitive areas. We also often have fisheries officers stationed at our project base, who together with our team can directly arrest illegal fishers and confiscate their illegal equipment before they have time to escape with their haul.

You can check out some of the pictures from the patrols here, and read some of the blog posts from previous volunteers here

We have also gained a lot of media attention and you can see some of the recent articles from 2015 below

The National Newspaper, The Cambodian Daily Ran a Story on Illegal fishing in Kep and mentioned our work.

Our Founder and Director was also featured recently in the UK's Daily Telegraph, covering the active conservation work and patrolling.

 

 

Koh Ach Seh Island is located in the southern part of Kep Province. The little town of Kep is the closest populated area to the island. By boat it takes roughly 1 hour to reach Koh Seh from the Pier in Kep, but that can change depending on weather and sea conditions. The Cambodian forces used Koh Seh as an outpost during the war with Vietnam. It is the furthest island from the mainland, in the area, and the closest island to Vietnam. The island is uninhabited except for a small marine police station and of course Marine Conservation Cambodia. A lush tropical paradise, the island is full of fruit tress, which were planted as a food source by the Cambodian forces, and scattered with old military bunkers as well. The MCC base is located in a small but protective cove offering us shelter form the weather especially during rainy season. The little bay also contains our home reef, which provides the MCC team with a beautiful reef to explore and survey without needing to take a boat ride. It is a shallow reef, but given it is close to shore it offers calm waters making for enjoyable safe diving conditions. These conditions are also extremely helpful in training new divers and collecting crucial data from surveys. The island has many walking trails allowing for beautiful nature hikes or a walk up the hill to catch a sunset. Koh Seh is a small island only taking a little over an hour to walk around depending on the tides.

 

Besides being responsible for the management and protection of Koh She, Marine Conservation Cambodia is also responsible for 13 other island reefs in the area. Along with these 13 other reefs MCC maintains roughly 3000ht of seagrass beds within Kep Province. These costal waters in Kep Province are home to a vast diversity of marine life. Dolphins, turtles, sea horses, crabs, and countless other species can be found in these waters, making it a beautiful place to call home.

 

The town of Kep is roughly a 3-hour drive from Phnom Penh; roughly 2 hours form Sihanoukville, and roughly 30 minutes from Kampot. There are multiple ways to get to Kep including private taxi, bus, or Tuktuk. It is an extremely friendly, safe, peaceful, and relaxed area of Cambodia. On the weekends you will find many locals from Phnom Penh coming to Kep in order to escape the hustle of the city. There is a small but beautiful beach in Kep, along with restaurants, and accommodations. A few stores and markets litter the streets making Kep a great place to stroll around and take in the culture. There is very limited shopping and almost zero nightlife in Kep, but that just adds to the relaxing sleepy feel of the town. With a beautiful national park only minutes away or the bustling crab market, there is plenty to explore.

 
Join MCC team Now!
Get involved & help us protect Kep Archipelago.
Volunteering with MCC will give you the opportunity to have a visible impact and participate real conservation projects. After your training, you will help us look for the rare Irrawaddy dolphin, you will try to find the well-hidden seahorse, you will help us build and deploy anti-trawling structures, you will let your own mark on MCC.
Apply Today