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Gibraltar to mark World Environmental Day today

Eyleen Gomez

Tomorrow is World Environment Day , and Gibraltar will be taking part in the day meant for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

This year’s theme is 'Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.'

Gibraltar’s size and number of residents may not be much when compared to the rest of the world but it can still have both a positive and negative impact on the environment.

Stephen Warr and Clive Crisp from the Department of Environment and Climate Change told the Chronicle what the department is doing this year to mark the day.

“This year we haven’t been able to convene the schools as we normally do which is a pity because that has always been the highlight of our environmental education and outreach programme,” said Mr Warr.

“So essentially this year what we are aiming to do is build on other events that are taking place, namely World Ocean’s Day [on June 8] and World Bicycle Day [today]. There are a lot of events happening at the same time and we felt rather than come up with our own separate event we are focusing this year on World Ocean’s Day.”

He explained that the work the department will be carrying out on Saturday will be in line with the theme of habitat restoration.

“We are going to be cleaning up the seabed and clearing up the shore lines and that forms part of the whole drive for marine restoration. Which is one of the big themes in the run up to the climate change conference in Scotland,” said Mr Warr.

This year is also different due to a new movement that has been created called the Neptunian Network.

Taking the lead in coordinating the event is Mr Crisp.

“It started when we started off with World Ocean’s Day and did our first clean up in 2007 and we got a lot of people involved, local NGOs, local dive clubs, the spear fishing club and everybody that uses the marine environment are represented,” said Mr Crisp.

While the group is not an official group and it is as a result of a WhatsApp group Bluefin swimmer Albert Yome has been instrumental in creating the Neptunian Network in its present form. This network now includes entities such as the University of Gibraltar and the Stand Up Paddle association.

“It is important to note that the department is taking part but we are not essentially taking the lead, we are part of a wider group,” said Mr Warr.

“We started arranging the first clean up on World Ocean’s Day but everybody involved does as well,” added Mr Crisp.

“There is a lot of logistics, divers planning etc and everyone has done their part so every year rather than the department taking the lead we like being part of something where other people from the community are taking pride in.”

Once the divers are in the water and start cleaning out the rubbish it is taken to a decritter station. The team go through all the rubbish that has been taken out and try to save as much marine life as possible and then throw it back into the sea.

They also do a species list of all the marine life they find in the litter.

To promote marine life, some which are safe to take out like starfish will be on show.

“Rosia Bay has got a very visible and extensive marine biodiversity in that little area and it is a relatively shallow area where there is a lot going on and it is nice to promote that,” said Mr Crisp.

In addition, they hope to get people out to areas that have been demarcated as having fishing gear stuck on reefs such as La Seca the Europa reef. Photographs documenting the process will also be taken. This will then be shared on social media to help bring awareness to just one element of marine pollution and littering.

“We will be relaying a lot of social media. As I said before it is World Environment Day/World Ocean’s Day they are related,” said Mr Warr.

The department will also use social media during the coming week to highlight example of restoration of different habitats and environments, including the removal of invasive species within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

The event takes place tomorrow at Rosia Bay from 9.30am onwards. It is expected it will all be wrapped up by 12.30pm. Everyone is welcome to go down and either take part or observe.

While the department has not stopped working with the schools hopes to kickstart the work they do in schools again in September and use World Environment Day 2022 as the finale.

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