In March this year, thousands of outdoor enthusiasts joined the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), and its members, to take part in the annual spring public vote. As a result of the public vote, plus the members’ private vote, six new conservation projects have been selected for EOCA support. It also marks a milestone in the history of EOCA – the funding of €3 million for conservation projects around the world.
43,637 votes were cast resulting in the selection of three new conservation projects for EOCA, and its members to support; EOCA’s members voted to select a further three projects. For this funding round only, all six of these projects will tackle EOCA’s ambitious new focus targeting plastic pollution – to collectively clear 3000km of habitat, trail and beach of plastic waste and pollution over the next two years. EOCA is making a great start to this target by addressing almost 1000km through these six projects.
As well as tackling current plastic issues and their threat to a habitat, landscape or species, each project will also have a link to outdoor enthusiasts, work with and benefit local communities, involve an educational element and leave a legacy. All funds are raised by membership fees and fundraising efforts of the European outdoor industry.
Last month, EOCA also launched a new public fundraiser to help reach this two-year focus of clearing 3000km. The project, part of Surfrider Foundation Europe’s ‘Ocean Initiatives’ programme, will work to raise awareness and educate thousands of people through waste collection and clean-up events. EOCA is calling on individuals and companies to donate via their website to fund this ambitious project. Every €10 donated via EOCA will help fund a clean-up area of 50 metres squared – the area of two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The six projects selected during the spring vote are:
Bird Watching to Reduce Plastic Pollution, Brazil
Nominated by Pertex
The Lagoa do Peixe National Park (LPNP) protects migratory birds. The area is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, with 273 bird species registered in the Park. The main tourist activity is bird watching, focused on the threatened species. The main threats to birds and endangered marine fauna are plastic waste pollution, ingestion, and damage to the natural landscape through the accumulation of debris on the beaches. Through this project, Instituto Curicaca will focus on reducing the plastic contamination in the habitat of endangered birds and other threatened animals, through clean up events, education and training.
Campaign for a plastic-free Ria Formosa, Portugal
Nominated by Paramo
Ria Formosa is an extensive 18,000 hectare lagoon system with sandflats, mudflats and saltmarshes, protected from open sea by a long, thin belt of sand dunes called barrier islands. Since rubbish produced by residents and the increasing numbers of tourists is a serious threat, the project focuses on the conservation of the shoreline, protecting marine animals and preserving the environment for nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts and hikers. EOCA funds will expand the annual clean-up to 11km carried out by RTV-aECO – Responsible Tourism Volunteer – Ocean Research and Conservation Association by adding an underwater clean-up. Funding will also enable an awareness campaign to tackle the problem at its source, targeting non-sustainable behaviours such as plastic consumption and littering.
Jaizkibel-Ulia Clean Up, Spain
Nominated by Ternua
The coast of Jaizkibel and Ulia is one of the best-conserved coastal stretches of the Basque Country with spectacular hilly and rocky landscapes attracting hikers, runners, bikers, climbers, divers and fishers. There are many species of fauna and flora of European interest, and endemic species. The inaccessibility of the cliffs has attracted important colonies of seabirds as well as nests of raptors and scavengers, many of them threatened. Through this project, Itsasa Gela-Aula del Mar will: clean the riverbed that leads to the study area, as well as cleanings creeks, seabeds and removing floating debris; raising awareness of the natural value of the area, plus the issues and solutions. Education workshops will introduce alternatives to and reduction of consumption for different sectors of the population and visitors.
The Himalayan Cleanup, India
Nominated by Grangers
The Indian Himalaya is part of a global biodiversity hotspot with a high percentage of protected and community conserved areas, as well as being an important source of water for millions of people. In 2018, a Himalayan Cleanup across the 12 mountain states mobilised 15,000 volunteers across 200 sites, sorting and recycling waste and making ecobricks from non-recyclable plastics. Integrated Mountain Initiative’s will run the Cleanup day again, alongside other community clean-up events raising awareness locally as well as amongst the travel, transport and tourism sectors. A workshop will be held with government and CSO stakeholders to discuss sustainable waste management strategies and keeping key habitats clean, underpinned by results from a waste audit.
ECO Relief, Lesvos, Greece
Nominated by Proagencies Ltd
The island of Lesvos is perhaps best known for the many species of migratory birds that find shelter in its ecosystem. Life jackets, rubber dinghies, outboard engines and the waste generated by thousands of refugees arriving on the island mount up on its beaches, polluting habitats on the cliffs and shore. The situation is compounded by items discarded by the local population, as well as by general commercial waste washed up by winds and currents. Following on from Lighthouse Relief’s successful 2018 programme, their objective in 2019 is to clean approximately 32 km of coastline and 50 km of trails, which constitute an important aspect of the natural beauty and appeal of the island. A special focus will be placed on recycling, as well as on community and school-based involvement and educational activities to reduce overall plastic use.
Montaña Limpia, Latin America
Nominated by The North Face Italy Srl
Since 2013, Acceso PanAm has engaged climbers, hikers and local communities to give back to the mountains via an annual mountain clean-up event. The Montaña Limpia (Clean Mountains) campaign runs simultaneously across a number of countries in Latin America and has been gaining in momentum and popularity. In 2019, the aim is to have 30 events happening across six countries with over 600 volunteers cleaning over 300km of trail. Funding will help by developing an app to engage younger people who are increasingly disconnected from the mountains, as well as helping record data on the types of trash found, the impacts on habitats and wildlife and offering educational and waste collection resources to help events.