Sailing Istanbul waters on the Blue Panda to #stopplasticpollution

Littered beaches, plastic bags flowing in the water and fear of microplastic in the fish we consume are the results of our single plastic use policy. We might be the ones who created the problem, but we are not the only ones suffering from it. More than 500,000 tons of plastic enter the Mediterranean Sea every year, accompanied by the 1.25 million microplastic fragments concentrated in each square kilometre. Plastic attracts aquatic toxins, which are being consumed by fish when it mixes with the plankton. Through the food chain, those toxins accumulate, leading to lower reproduction and survival rates. Not just fish but also marine mammals like dolphins and whales are known to mistake the litter for food, damaging their digestive system, ending deadly for 100,000 mammals around the globe during the last year. Others get entangled in packaging or abandoned nets, which often leads to fatal injuries or the inability to scavenge for food.

"We used the opportunity to conduct surveys on the local dolphin and porpoise population, collecting photo ID and behavioural data"

The WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative has taken the task upon themselves to fight for a stop of further plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. Besides pushing for legal action and laws, they work with the coastal population to rethink and act. As part of the latter, their sailing boat Blue Panda set sail to a six-month journey around the Mediterranean Sea, educating and mobilizing people on the way.

On their recent stop in Istanbul in the last week of September, DMAD under WWF-TURKEY, jumped on board to support them in their quest. In several trips through the Istanbul Strait, we took supporters, persons of public interest and the general public along for a ride. We strived to educate on the environmental threat plastic holds, to illustrate the dangerous effects it has on the marine wildlife – mammals in particular – and to discuss possible solutions in day to day life.
At the same time we used the opportunity to conduct surveys on the local dolphin and porpoise population, collecting photo ID and behavioural data. The results of such data efforts can be used to monitor changes in the population size in the future. Thereby possible underlying causes might be exposed and counteractive actions could be initiated in time.
To determine the situation and understand the need for action scientific research is essential.
However, public awareness and mobilisation are what carries the necessary changes. 
Therefore it is critically important to build the bridge between scientific data acquisition and the education and mobilisation of the broader public, letting both sides join forces in the fight to #stopplasticpollution, conserve a healthy marine environment and protect our marine mammals. Blue Panda sets an important example in that regard and we hope to keep doing so alongside them.