Campaign launched to prevent dumping in North Sea

Summary

Plastic dumped in the ocean doesn’t break down and is a hazard for fish and seabirds, as well as finding its way into the human food supply

Clean seas

The secretary of state for the North Sea in the federal government is launching an action plan aimed at reducing the amount of waste dumped in the North Sea. Philippe De Backer announced the plan at the opening of the United Nations’ #CleanSeas campaign in Bali.

Every year across the world, eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the sea, according to the UN. “Belgium is also confronted with the problem,” De Backer said. “For example, every kilo of sand contains 150 pieces of plastic.”

That plastic does not break down and is often swallowed by fish and seabirds, with fatal results. The animals affected can also become part of the human food supply: mussels feed by filtering sea-water, so any plastic they eat can later be eaten by us.

De Backer is also working closely with fellow minister Christine Marghem, who is in charge of environmental affairs, to come up with an anti-pollution policy. “We are also working with other parties who have an interest in the North Sea,” said De Backeer. “Abandoned or lost fishing nets, for example, can also cause serious problems. That’s why we’re getting together with the fishing industry to look at natural, biodegradable alternatives.”

Together with the fishing industry, he has launched the Fishing for Litter project, whereby “fishermen, who used to throw back any plastic picked up in their nets can now easily gather it and bring it to land”.

Photo: Michaelis Scientists/Wikimedia

Flemish coast

The Flemish coast is a 67-kilometre sandy stretch on the North Sea. With its wide beaches, quiet dunes and polders, it’s Flanders’ most-visited tourist attraction.
Day-trippers - A two-hour drive at worst from most Flemish cities, the coast especially draws day tourists during the summer.
Kusttram - Connecting Knokke all the way to De Panne, the “Coast Tram” is the staple means of transportation along the coast. It’s the longest tramline in the world.
Theater Aan Zee - Every summer, a 10-day music and theatre festival is organised in and around Ostend.
10

coast municipalities

67

kilometres long

3

million visitors annually