One day in the collection of olives with project M.A.R.E and M.A.R.E supporting team

On the 6th of October, two days before the departure of the volunteers of the supporting team, the president of the marine park, Lucio, invited us to live the experience of the olive collection at the house of his step family. Traditionally in Italy, the collection of the olives starts the first day of November, the day of the dead, and is done by hand. Of course, it can start earlier and can go up to December, but it’s normally in November that is associated the olive cultivation, a ritual that started almost 6000 years ago. Olives are collected directly from the tree and then, starts a race against the clock. From the time when olives are collected starts the oxidation of the fruit and they have to be taken to extract the oil as fast as possible. Olive oil is a raw material as important as it is delicate and it’s very important to identify the good moment to collect them. The olive harvest in Italy is also an important social occasion as families come together to pick the olives and press them for the first extra virgin olive oil. This makes it possible to harvest the greatest number of olives per tree and obtain maximum oil yield, while maintaining quality levels. Normally, 100 kg of olives yield 16 to 18 kg of oil. 

It was a very powerful feeling to be invited in this house and be part of what is a very old family tradition. We arrived in the morning and were welcomed with the traditional Italian “cornetto” and caffé. After exchanging salutations, we went straight to work, we split in different teams and covered the hole property to harvest the olives. Working with olives required a lot of patience because the collect is done by hand, branch by branch, and when the harvest is over it’s very important to check and remove the olives that are already bad. All of the volunteers worked for few hours and we harvested kilos and kilos of olives. At some point during the work, we started smelling the nice smell of the pizza oven working… What was our surprise when we realized that Lucio’s step-father prepared more than forty pizza dough for us! While the pizzas were getting prepared, we sat to have some drinks all together and after some time the first pizzas started to arrive! I have been living in Italy for 6 months and I have tried a lot of pizzas during this time but I can say without any hesitation that the pizza we had that day were the best I had ever tried in my life. Simple margherita, only with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and a bit of oil… mind blowing!!! We ate all the pizzas we could eat that day and when everyone was full of pizza and drinks, they offered to make our own pizzas with the remaining dough. Each one of us that wanted to try, made their own pizzas. We started by working out the dough, slowly, using a lot of flour. Then we had to flatten the dough to make our pizza, added tomato sauce, cheese and directly in the oven! 5 min later… et voilà! A beautiful pizza. It was an amazing experience to be able to be so close to the Italian culture! The afternoon went on with pizza, drinks and dancing. I can say surely that everyone had a lot of fun that day. Around 5pm it started pouring rain and everyone was invited to go inside the house to stay dry. One by one we started to run towards the house until one of the volunteers, Arthur, arrived in front of the door and fell majestically because of the slippery floor! The crazy laugh we all had when we realized that there were cameras around and that we could see that fall over and over again (don’t worry nothing happened to him, he was perfectly fine). This beautiful day ended with the kindness of these people who, in the end, gave us a ride home so we won’t be soaked wet walking back. 

During this day we all put ourselves to work, we met great people and learnt a lot. We got closer to the Italian culture and shared a bit of our own. Thanks to this great team we worked while having fun which made things quite easy in the end. It was a great way to enjoy one of the last days of the volunteers of the supporting team, I think I can say without a doubt that we are all thankful for the opportunities that give us this project. I will always remember that day of my life when I picked up the olives and made Italian pizza for the first time, I will cherish every memory that I made with this team. Thank you all. 

Cigarette Butts – a dangerous waste for marine life

 

While the consequences of consuming tabacco on human health are widely known, the environmental damages caused by cigarette butts thrown away in nature are rarely addressed. As cigarette butts are not biodegradable, they pile up in vast amounts in our oceans. Did you know for example that 98% of cigarette filters are made out of plastic fibers?1 With more than 4.5 trillion butts littered each year, according to National Geographic, they are even attributed one of the biggest man-made ocean contaminants worldwide.

When cigarettes are smoked, burnt and left, they do not simply represent a littering problem. This is because conventional cigarette filters contain up to 4000 chemicals and heavy metals. These substances after smoking remain in the butts and turn into toxic and dangerous waste, such as lead, nicotine and arsenic (arsenic is naturally component of the earth’s crust, however in its inorganic form arsenic is highly toxic2, and was used e.g. in rat poisoning3). As such, they can be a severe danger for small marine animals and can even destabilize entire ecosystems.

This effect of cigarette butt pollution on marine life is demonstrated in many scientific experiments. As researchers at the University of San Diego under the lead of Prof. Thomas Novotny, found out, fish exposed to the amount of nicotine represented in 1 cigarette butt and dissolved in 1 liter of water can kill them after only 4 days. With nicotine, fish begin to shake, turn upside down and finally sink to the ground. Some toxins can even accumulate in certain fish, such as the trout, and thus remain in the food chain of the ecosystem for longer time.4

So what can you do against cigarettes pollution in the ocean?

  • Reduce your impact. Dispose cigarette butts responsibly. Take a bag or portable ash tray with you on the beach. 
  • Participate in Cleanups – Cigarette butts are the item mostly recovered at cleanups. Tell your peers about the problem.

Did you know that cigarette butts can even be recycled. The initiative TobaCycle collects cigarette ends through restaurants, bars and companies and utilize the recycled plastics from the filters to produce new products such as recycled cups and ashtrays. This means less waste; less pollution and materials are kept in the cycle5

 

by Julia Pfeiffer

Sources:

1) National Geographic (2021): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/cigarettes-story-of-plastic Tania Velin, Kelsey Nowakowski. Sources: Bradford Harris, Tobacco Control, 2011 ; Viceroy;Truth Initiative; Terracycle; 5 Gyres Institute

2) WHO (2021): Arsenic. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/arsenic

3) California Against Litter (2020): Cigarette Litter. https://www.cawrecycles.org/cigarette-litter

4) Slaughter E, Gersberg RM, Watanabe K, Rudolph J, Stransky C, Novotny TE. Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Tob Control. 2011 May;20 Suppl 1(Suppl_1):i25-9. doi: 10.1136/tc.2010.040170

5) ZDF Heute (2019): Umweltproblem Zigarettenkippen, https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/heute-in-deutschland/umweltproblem-mit-zigarettenkippen-100.html

“LOOKING FOR A CARETTA I REMOVE MY ‘CARETA’ ” -Ignacio

Hi! I am Ignazio, a young man from Madrid living in Italy immersed in a wonderful marine preservation project called Project M.A.R.E. In Madrid I worked as a cook and as a animator and rugby trainer with young boys and girls.
Thanks to this project I have had the opportunity to participate in the monitoring of the beaches of Baia Domizia, in the province of Caserta located north of Napoli, and the objective of this search in the sand is none other than to find tracks and turtle nests marina Caretta Caretta.
 

Fortunately, this beautiful coastline is increasingly frequented by the Caretta, a species in danger of extinction. The sad side of the story is that the turtle on many occasions needs human help so that the nest can move forward because sometimes the eggs are deposited too close to the sea or, on the contrary, it is threatened by human activities on the beach that prevent a continuity of Caretta’s offspring.  

 

This experience for me has been a great learning experience that I must thank Lido Azzurro (Baia Felice), the great Erica Moura (AMP Punta Campanella), the Anton Dorhn Zoological Station, the Domizia Group and Marcello Giannotti (ARDEA). These entities are putting effort and commitment to preserve the biodiversity of the area and specifically to save the Caretta Caretta.  

Our work in Baia Domizia consists of searching for signs of Caretta nests whose tracks in the sand are similar to tracks of tractor. This is ironic because in our search the tractors are an element of confusion or even cancellation of the track and the nest, and unevenness in the sand in the shape of a crater: the possible nest.   In case of being lucky and finding a real nest, the possibility of changing its situation should be evaluated, generally moving it away from the tidal line and placing it above the storm line, an environment identical to the nest produced by the mother should be generated in terms of to characteristics of the sand and also once the new nest is buried, a net of about 1×1 m must be inserted to prevent other excavating species from finding the nest, endangering the eggs.  

This is undoubtedly the most exciting and rewarding part of a very tiring job such as traveling miles and miles of beach under the sun. But it doesn’t end here. Our work in addition to patrolling is communication and awareness with the managers of the Lidos that are so present on this coast; This dialogue is developing and the objective is to find a balance between our moral responsibility with the protected species and the unconditional search to obtain a monetary benefit from the beach. During the afternoons, meetings have been held with said beach owners and workers to share identification knowledge and modes of action in case of finding a footprint or a possible nest. We have also had the opportunity to get closer to the little ones in a meeting to raise awareness and knowledge about protected species that nest on the beach such as the Caretta, the Frattino and the Corriere Piccolo, the last two taught by great professionals and people Marcello Giannotti and Giovanni from the ARDEA association.  

As an isolated event, one of the saddest moments that touched my heart happened on my first morning on patrol on the beach when Ali (Project M.A.R.E) and I found a dead turtle on Il Lido Beach. The turtle had a large cut in the shell probably caused by the propeller of a boat. Without knowing the intention or the degree of guilt of this boat we can affirm that they did not bother to notify the Coast Guard and that unfortunately almost every day turtles are found in a state of difficulty, all due to direct or indirect actions of the “human” being.

Trying to see the glass half full and at the level of tangible objectives, I can proudly say that I have participated in the work carried out in 4 Caretta Caretta nests found in the Castel Volturno area, contributing to the continuity of an amazing and terribly threatened species, having spreading a message of hope with people of all ages is something that could never have imagined 3 months ago in Madrid.