The Durban beachfront is littered with plastic and pollution, the majority of which comes from the Umgeni River and the Harbour. The structure of the “Golden Mile” of Durban’s beachfront is such that once the rubbish washes from the river into the sea, it tends to collect at Vetch’s reef. Vetch’s reef, named after the engineer in charge of creating a northern breakwater for Durban Harbour in the 1860s, is one of Durban’s hidden gems. it is popular with scuba divers, snorkelers, and even surfers and paddlers when the weather is right. Today, Vetch’s reef hosts one of the largest subtidal mussel populations the Durban coast. The reef is also rich in red-bait, as well as other animals. Sadly, much of the waste from Durban Harbour gets trapped in the coral of Vetch’s reef, while the rest washes up on adjacent beaches, separated by piers. The reef is now facing a dual-threat of long term/ permanent damage due to plastic pollution from the river and harbour and from Municipal sand pumping schemes.
The reef has been colonised by diverse fauna – several species of coral, limpets, sponges and a variety of sub-tropical fish, including surgeonfish, flute fish, Crescent tail wrasse (Thalassoma lunare), Goldbar wrasse (Thalassoma hebraicum) and Bird wrasse (Gomphosus varius); Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis); various butterflyfish, including Threadfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga) and Racoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula); Blacktail (Diplodus capensi); Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) and Coachman (Heniochus diphreutes).
While there are a lot of initiatives to clean up bigger, visible plastic and litter on our beaches, there is not much focussed on cleaning what is in the ocean.
After the 2019 City Serve Event, Breathe and Zebra Shark Adventures teamed up to start a monthly underwater clean-up. The plan was to snorkel the reef and along the Harbour wall and collect any waste we found.
On days when sea conditions are not conducive for snorkeling, we will do a beach clean up and guided walk. This will ensure that we are a regular presence on the beachfront throughout the year, as we try to do our bit for a plastic free ocean, and raise public awareness at the same time.