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MCS Beach Clean data reveals urgent need for all-inclusive UK Deposit Return Scheme

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The UK’s leading marine charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has released the results of its most recent Great British Beach Clean, a UK-wide weekend of coastal cleaning from Land’s End to the Shetland Islands and from Northern Ireland to the Channel Islands.

This year the Great British Beach Clean saw 437 beach cleans and litter surveys take place with over 10,800 volunteers getting involved to remove 10,833 kg of litter from the UK’s beaches…. That’s almost 11 tonnes of litter in one weekend alone. Over the past 26 years MCS has invited volunteers to become citizen scientists and not only clear the beach of litter, but record what they collect, providing valuable data to the charity on what’s polluting the UK’s beaches.

The five most common items per 100m of UK beach:

  1. Plastic/polystyrene pieces (0-50cm) – 143 per 100m
  2. Cigarette stubs – 42.6 per 100m
  3. Glass items (other) – 33.4 per 100m
  4. Plastic/polystyrene string – 32.6 per 100m
  5. Packaging (crisps, sweets, lollies and sandwiches) – 30.9 per 100m

Photo: Natasha Ewins

Data from this year’s Great British Beach Clean illustrates the urgent need for the UK’s Governments to implement an all-inclusive Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) which would not only minimise single-use plastic bottles littering the beaches, but would remove all types of drinks containers from the UK coastline including glass and cans. Over just one weekend of beach cleaning, MCS volunteers recorded over 16,000 drinks containers of varying forms and an average of four glass bottles for every 100m of beach surveyed. Whilst the potential dangers of single-use plastic bottles have been well documented, glass bottles and cans are equally as dangerous for not only marine life, but for beach visitors.

Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas said:

“It’s so important to ensure that we’re not taking our foot off the pedal to push the UK’s Governments to adopt all-inclusive DRS at the earliest possible opportunity. The Scottish Government’s commitment to an all-inclusive DRS is a fantastic step in the right direction, but it must be designed to include all drinks containers and must not exclude glass.  Delaying the implementation of DRS by a year would result in 50 million additional empty containers littering our beaches, it’s imperative that the planned 2021 implementation date is adhered to.”

“The consultation on a Deposit Return Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland earlier this year received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public, with over 207,000 responses in favour of an all-inclusive DRS.  Disappointingly, the development of DRS for England and Wales has stalled, with the current Government indicating it would need to gather further evidence and to consult further before introducing DRS, the general election has added further delay. Around the world, 40 countries have DRS in place, significantly reducing litter levels and increasing recycling rates. In the meantime, a climate emergency has been declared and our data illustrates that drinks containers continue to pollute our marine environment whilst policy stalls.  Other countries have rolled out DRS and we need to act now. DRS should be one of the first policies implemented following the upcoming general election to protect our environment and kick-start behaviour change.”

At this year’s Great British Beach Clean 558 litter items were found per 100m of beach surveyed in the UK, illustrating why it is so important to continue fighting to reduce pollution on our beaches and to implement measures to stop marine pollution at source.  Whilst plastic pieces remain the most prolific form of litter (143 pieces found per 100m of beach), cigarette stubs (42 per 100m) and glass items (other) (33 per 100m) make up the top three most common litter items on UK beaches, illustrating the need for further policies, initiatives and bans to be put in place to reduce all forms of beach litter.

Lizzie Prior, Beachwatch Officer said:

“Great British Beach Clean data over the last 26 years has been instrumental in pushing for policies and initiatives which have made a real change to the marine environment, including the 5p carrier bag charge. We hope that this year’s data, when compared with the state of the UK’s beaches 26 years ago, will encourage even more people to get involved in our year round Beachwatch programme to help us gather important data and keep the UK’s beaches beautiful for generations to come.”

Thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch programme can conduct beach cleans year-round, gathering data which supports the charity’s campaigning to stop marine pollution at source.

For more information on the Great British Beach Clean and its 26 years of data, and to find beach cleans happening near you, please visit www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch

Marine Life & Conservation

Exhibition: Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research

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From now until 30 October, the photo exhibition “Protecting UNESCO Marine World Heritage through scientific research” features 21 photographs at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, as well as a digital edition.

Exceptional photographs highlight how innovative marine experts and scientists take the pulse of the ocean by exploring ecosystems, studying the movement of species, or revealing the hidden biodiversity of coral reefs. Scientific discoveries are more important than ever for the protection and sustainable conservation of our Marine World Heritage. This memorable exhibition comes ahead of the launch, in 2021, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (“Ocean Decade”). The exhibition was jointly developed by UNESCO and the Principality of Monaco.

The 50 marine sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, distributed across 37 countries, include a wide variety of habitats as well as rare marine life still largely unknown. Renowned for their unmatched beauty and emblematic biodiversity, these exceptional ecosystems play a leading role in the field of marine conservation. Through scientific field research and innovation, concrete actions to foster global preservation of the ocean are being implemented locally in these unique natural sites all over the world. They are true symbols of hope in a changing ocean.

Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports UNESCO to strengthen conservation and scientific understanding of the marine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. This strategic partnership allows local management teams to benefit from the results obtained during the scientific missions of Monaco Explorations. The partnership also draws international attention to the conservation challenges facing the world’s most iconic ocean sites.

The exhibition invites viewers to take a passionate dive into the heart of the scientific missions led by Monaco Explorations in four marine World Heritage sites: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (Philippines), Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France). It is also an opportunity to discover the work of a megafauna census; the study of the resilience of coral reefs and their adaptation in a changing climate; the exploration of the deep sea; and the monitoring of large marine predators through satellite data.

To visit the Digital Exhibition click here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 7

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for the final part of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy expeditions do not just magically happen, they need planning and they need funding.  This expedition was funded by our long-term partners the Veterans’ Foundation.  The funding is part of a grant they awarded us for programmes this year, which were then put on hold because of COVID.

All charities in the Armed Forces’ Sector are struggling for funds. Deptherapy desperately needs support going forward and every penny counts.

We know what we do works and at the end of this blog you will find details of the research studies into Deptherapy’s programmes and how they impact on the lives of our beneficiaries.  This includes details that are hot off the press about the latest study that reports that what we offer through scuba diving and 24/7 support has benefits beyond those found in other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

Well tomorrow we fly home, late in the evening with the journey home for some of the guys who live up North taking around 15 hours after leaving Roots.

We want to make the most of today but with the tide running we are not going to be able to dive until later this morning which means only two dives today.

Oatsie and Swars about to start their sidemount dives

Things, however are really busy over at the dive centre with Swars and Oatsie putting their sidemount kit together for their training dives with Steve Rattle leading to their RAID sidemount qualification.  It has been nice to be able to offer the guys this extra training, given the amount of work they have put in this week.  They have needed to get through their theory quickly but given the RADI online learning system this has not been too arduous.

Steve came diving with us yesterday to get some more photos and was really amazed at the progress that Corey had made. He was quite open in his praise, as in his view Corey has gone from a non-diver to being a very competent OW diver capable of diving, unsupervised, with a buddy.  Praise indeed.

Other than the sidemount course we are diving as a group today: Corey, Keiron, Michael, Moudi and me. Corey has been given some tasks – SMB deployment on both dives and the afternoon dive will be a ‘naturalist dive’.  Guy Henderson has set Corey a task: ‘to identify three species of fish and record the time into the dive and the depth at which each one was spotted’.  Guy runs Marine Biology courses on the reef and knows where the fish are to be found, how long into the dive, and at what time.

The two Toms are getting put through their paces. They have walked their cylinders down to the entry point, but Steve sends them back to the dive centre to collect other kit they should have brought with them.

Our general dive goes well and the sidemount guys appear from their sidemount dive some 90 minutes after dipping their heads under the water.

Corey enjoying being a RAID OW20 Diver

Lots of bubbly chat at lunchtime, a group of really happy divers. Corey really has benefited from the week and over lunch thanked the team for making him a diver. He has very quickly become part of the family and after returning home he published an amazing post on Facebook about his experience.  Corey really gets Deptherapy and had soon realised that we see past mental and physical injuries and see the person inside and work with that person.  He also realised that we want beneficiaries to see their fellow beneficiaries in the same light.  He knows he now has another ‘family’ – a family of brothers in arms who have two things in common, they served their country and they have suffered life changing injuries or illnesses.

Back into the water for the afternoon dive and Corey identifies the fish and records the details on a slate.  The two Tom’s complete their second dive and qualify as RAID Sidemount Divers. Great!

Kit packed away and it is time to return to the camp for a few well-earned last night drinks.

I am often asked why we use Roots as our exclusive base for diving. I have mentioned before that it offers us an ideal retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are secluded and there are no distractions such as late-night bars etc.

Roots Accessible Room

The second reason is the amazing welcome we receive from Steve, Clare, Moudi and the team.  We have been going to Roots since 2014 and many of the staff have become good friends, they understand our needs and are the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet.

The third reason is the huge investment Steve and Clare have made in making the resort and dive centre accessible for those with physical injuries including those who need to use wheelchairs.  All our beneficiaries can enjoy Roots and, in fact, love it here.  The reef is perfect for us and in non-COVID times we can travel to the Salem Express and other dive sites to enjoy more of the Red Sea experience.

Accessible toilet on the Roots beach

After discussions with the team I was very proud to be able to tell Corey that his progress had been such that we were inviting him on the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust sponsored two-week Marine Biology Course at Roots in June 2021. There is lots of homework to undertake under the guidance of Dr Debbie McNeill of Open Oceans and Corey will be sent the Red Sea Guide which is the basis for study.

While on that programme, Corey with fellow beneficiary Dale Mallin, will complete his RAID Advanced 35 course.  This all builds to a 10-day Red Sea liveaboard in 2022, onboard Roots’ new boat Big Blue where 18 beneficiaries will compare the coral and aquatic life on the wrecks of the SS Thistlegorm and the less known SS Turkia that is to be found in the Gulf of Suez and is rarely dived.

Paul Rose, our Vice President, is supporting the programme and is seeking the support of the UN and the Royal Geographical Society. A comprehensive report will be submitted to our partners in the project and to the Egyptian Authorities.

Last night and chill

What we do works:

In recent years there have been three academic studies into our work:

2018 – A study by a team from the University of Sheffield Medical School.

2019 – A study by The Centre of Trauma at Nottingham University.

Both these studies reported very positively on Deptherapy’s work both underwater but also in terms of the provision of 24/7 support.

The following is from our press release which was issued on 26th October:

‘A new study into Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy’s approach to supporting Armed Forces veterans with psychological injuries such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through the medium of scuba diving has been carried out by Petra Walker in conjunction with Hanna Kampman of the Posttraumatic Growth Research Unit at the University of East London.

This study, which used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), demonstrates that scuba diving has rehabilitation benefits beyond those found in other forms of sporting rehabilitation exercise. IPA is a qualitative methodology that examines the experiences of participants and has been used in previous studies of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in para-athletes.

Petra is an experienced diver herself and was exploring the wellbeing aspects of scuba diving as part of her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology when she came across a previous study on Deptherapy. Past studies have mainly focused on the medical aspects of diving, so the opportunity to examine the mental health side of rehabilitative scuba diving was impossible to ignore. The full study is currently embargoed until it is published at a future date in an academic journal, but it follows similar academic research into the work of Deptherapy by the University of Sheffield Medical School (2018) and the University of Nottingham (2019).’

This is amazing news and sets us apart from other sporting rehabilitation programmes.

We are currently working with our VP Richard Castle who is a Consultant Psychologist and our Dive Medicine Advisor Mark Downs to identify further areas of psychological and physical dive related research.

We end the week on a happy note.  A young man who has learned to dive properly with a RAID OW 20 certification, a new RAID Master Rescue Diver, two new RAID Sidemount Divers, 5 new RAID O2 Providers, many assessments for our DMs but most of all a week of learning, of making new friendships, renewing old friendships, and building on our family ethos.

Until we meet again…

For us, Deptherapy is a journey, a journey that continues to push boundaries in the use of scuba diving in the rehabilitation of those suffering life changing mental and/or physical challenges.  On our journey we want to change the way the scuba diving industry views diving for those with disabilities.

In the new year, we will be launching, with our diver training agency partners RAID, a new and exciting adaptive teaching programme that will offer diving to the disabled community. We can’t wait to share it with you!


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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