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Bay pupils join anti-plastic drive

Say no to plastic and stop polluting our oceans, were the messages from Nelson Mandela Bay pupils who paraded along Beach Road on Sunday to do their bit to raise awareness for marine life.The parade formed part of the Whale Watching Festival hosted by Raggy Charters at Pine Lodge Resort and Conference Centre in Port Elizabeth on Youth Day.Raggy Charters owner Lloyd Edwards said his team would host 17 presentations and festivals over the next month, making their way up the African coastline, along with the humpback whales which are now migrating from the Antarctic.About 7,000 whales will have passed Cape Recife from June 1 until the end of July.The first leg of the festival was hosted in Knysna on June 6, and the Raggy Charters team will host the last event in Kenya at the end of July.“The whole idea is that as they [the whales] move, we move with them.“This is also so that tourists are encouraged to do the route one day and we’ll try to make it a real adventure for them.“The whales come from the Antarctic and they hit the African coastline near Kenya. Some of them go up the west coast and some up the east coast.“But with regard to the PE leg, we wanted to get young people involved, considering that the country is celebrating Youth Day.”This is the second year Raggy Charters is hosting the Whale Watching Festival, but the 2019 movement has also brought along a powerful campaign against plastic and pollution.“We got 127 learners from three schools in the Bay to build floats.“They paraded them along the beachfront and then finally finished off here at Pine Lodge.“The value of educating children at a young age is priceless.“When we started the Baywatch Project, we were helping law enforcement officers, but we soon realised that when you reach law enforcement, you’ve lost the battle already.“The big trick is to get kids involved while they’re young and educate them properly.“So we’ve given them a hands-on experience where they can actually see plastic, work with plastic, construct something like a float and get the recognition for that,” Edwards said.The three schools involved were Motherwell, Walmer and Cigani high schools.In partnership with the South African National Defence Force, preparations for the floats started early in April.This also included marine conservation lectures, beach clean-ups and the collection of recyclable plastic waste.The floats were all made from recyclable material which will later be sold to raise funds for each school.Cigani High principal Mbuleli Sandi said pupils living in townships were often not exposed to the harmful realities facing marine species, nor the environmental damage from plastic pollution.Sandi said allowing pupils to become involved in conservation initiatives enabled them to see the value of protecting the ocean.“After experiencing this, our learners took it very seriously.“Some of them have told me that in the near future, they would like to follow careers aligned to protecting marine life and the environment.“Learners in our townships are not always aware of the species that are right here in the sea near us, but through a project like this they become exposed to what is out there.“Prior to this, some of them had never even been to the beach. But they have now seen these species and how human beings are contributing to the death of many of them.”

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