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Marine Life & Conservation

British beaches are the final resting places for mountains of litter with more arriving on every wave and gust of wind, says the MCS

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What do half a TV, a French bullet-proof vest and an unopened pack of bacon have in common?

They were all cleared from UK beaches during a single weekend last September and were among the 223,405 bits of litter that volunteers bagged up and removed as part of the Beachwatch Big Weekend 2013, organised by the Marine Conservation Society.

The UK’s leading beach cleanup and survey has now been running for twenty years and over the two decades the amount of litter found on our beaches has been steadily increasing. The 20th anniversary clean up, which took place between 20th and 23rd September 2013, saw 2,309 items of litter found on every kilometre cleaned – the highest in Beachwatch history.

MCS says that in 20 years 59,493 volunteers have taken part in Beachwatch Big Weekend, removing 5,528,399 pieces of litter from 3,080.5km of coastline.

“This is a disgusting tide of litter which is threatening the safety of beach visitors both human and animal. It’s coming in from the sea, being blown from the land or simply being dumped and dropped. After 20 years of campaigning it’s disheartening that in 2013 we are seeing worse litter levels than ever,” says Lauren Eyles, MCS Beachwatch Officer.

MCS Beachwatch volunteers record where the litter they find comes from to help the charity campaign to stop it getting there in the first place.

Here’s where the litter recorded last September came from:

Public – 39.4% This is all the stuff littered by people – it’s dropped intentionally, left behind accidentally, or it arrives on the beach carried on the wind or in rivers.

Fishing – 12.6% Includes commercial and recreational fishing stuff – line, nets, weights, floats.

Shipping – 4.5% This is all the stuff that gets dropped, lost or thrown overboard from small craft to massive cargo ships.

Sewage Related Debris (SRD) – 4.3% The really nasty stuff – bits people put down the loo but shouldn’t – cotton bud sticks, tampons, nappies and the like.

Fly-tipped 0.9% People use some beaches like the local tip – fly-tipping things like furniture, pottery and ceramics.

Medical – 0.2% Inhalers, plasters, syringes – stuff you really don’t want your kids picking up.

Non-sourced – 38.1% All the bits and bobs that can’t really be identified – generally small things or damaged stuff.

Lauren Eyles says 2013 was a vintage year for finding strange things on beaches: “As well as half a TV, a French bullet-proof vest and a pack of bacon, there was a brass candlestick, some plastic bird feet, a birdcage, a bath plug, half a canoe and a set of dentures!” Top of the finds was once again plastic pieces. These are tiny bits of plastic that have broken off larger items or have been in the sea for possibly decades and become smaller and smaller.

“Plastic is a real issue for our oceans and beaches,” says Lauren Eyles. “This year we also picked up lots of lids and caps. However, despite it being a really warm summer, we saw less crisp, sweets and lolly wrappers and fewer plastic bottles. There’s continued good news though for Sewage Related Debris (SRD) – there’s still less of it about after we asked people, in 2011, to stop flushing things down the loo that should go in the bin.”

Regionally, beaches in the North West of England had almost double the amount of litter per kilometre than the national average at over 4,000 pieces, whilst the South West, which normally has high litter levels, had well below the national average at just over 1,750 pieces per kilometre. Litter on Welsh beaches increased by 60% between 2012 and 2013 with almost 4,500 bits of rubbish per kilometre.

MCS says urgent steps must be taken to reverse the rising tide of beach litter. During June it will be launching its Marine Litter Action Network which will be tasked with changing behaviour in a variety of areas from the plastics industry to manufacturing, retail to shipping.

“Marine Litter Action Network meetings and workshops will take place between June 2014 and June 2015. Experts from the areas that we believe can do more will be joining us to identify ways that everyone can help reduce marine litter. This is no talking shop – we will have a year to make a difference and will be presenting the Government with our plans which we will be asking them to implement as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which gives the Government certain objectives it has to meet,” says Lauren Eyles.

MCS will be running beach cleans and surveys around the UK coast this Spring and Autumn, and the charity is calling on the public to take part and make this the biggest year of beach cleans and surveys ever. The first big event will take place at hundreds of beaches between 24th and 30th April. You can find out more and register at www.mcsuk.org/foreverfish.

Marine Life & Conservation

The Shark Trust Great Shark Snapshot is back

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The last week of July will see the return of the Shark Trust’s citizen science initiative, The Great Shark Snapshot. It invites divers and snorkellers, all around the world, to record the sharks and rays that they see. This year it takes place between the 20th and 28th July.

The event is back for its 3rd year, and it is happening in “Shark Month”, more commonly known as July! To coincide with a series of events that celebrate all things shark and ray.

Divers, their clubs, dive centres, charter boats and liveaboards are all encouraged to show their support by organising dives and events through the week. As well as gathering vital data, the event will provide a chance to celebrate the incredible shark and ray species that live in our ocean.

Information about the species and numbers of sharks and rays the participants find over the week will be added to the Shark Trust’s Shark Log. This global shark census will, over time, allow shark scientists to build a picture of species distribution and any changes that occur

Caroline Robertson-Brown, Marketing Manager at the Shark Trust said “It is great to see this popular citizen science event back for its 3rd year. Whether you are diving your local dive site, or on a trip of a lifetime, we want divers to join in on the Great Shark Snapshot in July. I cannot wait to hear from the divers and dive organisations about the species of sharks and rays that they see. And where in the world they see them.”

It is easy to join in. Just go diving between 20th and 28th July and record every shark, ray and skate that you and your dive group sees. If possible, take photos and some video footage too. Then make sure that you record your sightings on the Shark Trust Shark Log recordings website or by using the Shark Trust app.

The Great Shark Snapshot is a way for divers to get together, go diving, and do something to help shark conservation. Why not dive in?

Find out more here: www.sharktrust.org/snapshot

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The Ocean Cleanup to Complete 100th Extraction Live from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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the ocean cleanup
  • The Ocean Cleanup marks 100th extraction of plastic pollution from the Pacific Ocean by livestreaming entire cleaning operation from start to finish.
  • Occasion brings together supporters, partners, donors and followers as the project readies its cleanup technology for scale-up.
  • Founder and CEO Boyan Slat to provide insight on the plans ahead.

The Ocean Cleanup is set to reach a milestone of 100 plastic extractions from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Extraction #100, scheduled for 28 or 29 May 2024, will be the first ever to be livestreamed direct from the Pacific Ocean, allowing supporters and partners around the world to see up close how the organization has removed over 385,000 kilograms (nearly 850,000 lbs) of plastic from the GPGP so far – more than double the bare weight of the Statue of Liberty.

the ocean cleanup

The mission of The Ocean Cleanup is to rid the oceans of plastic. To do this, the non-profit project employs a dual strategy: cleaning up legacy floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (the world’s largest accumulation of floating plastic), while stopping the flow of plastic from the world’s most polluting rivers.

The Ocean Cleanup captured its first plastic (the first ‘extraction’) in the GPGP in 2019 with System 001, following years of trials and testing with a variety of concepts. Through System 002 and now the larger and more efficient System 03, the organization has consistently improved and optimized operations, and is now preparing to extract plastic trash from the GPGP for the 100th time.

the ocean cleanup

Extraction #100 will be an interactive broadcast showing the entire extraction procedure live and in detail, with insight provided by representatives from across The Ocean Cleanup and partners contributing to the operations.

This is an important milestone in a key year for The Ocean Cleanup.’ said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. ‘We’ve come a long way since our first extraction in 2019. During the 2024 season, with System 03, we aim to demonstrate that we are ready to scale up, and with it, confine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the history books.

the ocean cleanup

The livestream will be hosted on The Ocean Cleanup’s YouTube channel and via X. Monitor @theoceancleanup for confirmed timings.

www.theoceancleanup.com

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