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Marine Life & Conservation

Underwater Litter Picking In Cornwall

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Litter is the outward sign of a lazy individual or community. Discarding litter shows total disregard for other people and the environment. As well as being unsightly it is causing havoc in the marine world. Animals are caught up in it, others feed on it only to die of starvation and poisoning. We have got to the stage where seeing discarded drink cans, plastic and other waste products are part of normal life.

Mark Milburn of Atlantic Divers in Falmouth Cornwall decided to do something about it.  Each month Mark heads an underwater litter pick at different locations around the Falmouth area. I asked him how it all got started.

“Early in 2012, a few of my past students had contacted me; they had been struggling to find buddies to dive with. I decided to organise a social dive which I advertised on Facebook. Quite a few locals turned up as well as some of my past students. It was quite effective. I then made the decision to organise these social dives once a month, to give everyone a chance to get to know each other at their leisure.

During an escorted dive in June of 2012, while I was showing someone the delights of some of Falmouth’s shore dives, I noticed quite a bit of litter underwater at Swanpool Beach. I hadn’t realised that there was much before; was this new, or were my eyes now open? I almost felt ashamed, so darted about picking up carrier bags and shoving them in my drysuit pockets. The person I was escorting enjoyed the dive and was impressed with my litter collection. I thought to myself “I need to clean this up”. It would be a huge task but worth it. Later that evening I was wondering where to do the next social dive, Swanpool wasn’t the most exciting of dives, just easy and quite pleasant. Then it clicked, combine the two, a social dive to collect litter.

We set a date for August, a Sunday lunchtime so everyone could have their ‘lie in’. The owner of Swanpool was helpful and organised a press release. We received a call from BBC Radio Cornwall, asking if we could be interviewed on the Saturday. When we arrived on the Saturday morning for the interview, there were huge waves crashing into Swanpool Beach. Sunday’s weather forecast was good but this wasn’t ideal conditions for the day before.

It was Sunday, 12 noon, and there were quite a few divers in the car park. Some I had never met before, some I had known for years. I gave the pre-dive brief, explained what we were doing, what was expected, what we could collect and what we shouldn’t. I had used the Project Aware site’s litter picker’s guide for the Dos and Don’ts. Luckily the weather forecast was correct and the sea was flat, although the visibility didn’t look too clever. The divers entered the water as and when they were ready, after being pestered by Julie for their details for her diver’s log. As the divers floated off there were several shouts about the visibility, it wasn’t good. I just shouted to go out further.

An hour and a half later, all the divers were back out. There was a pile of litter to be sorted and categorized, before submitting to Project Aware. The litter pick had also coincided with BSAC’s litter picking effort, so we sent them the data too. We had collected 16kg’s of litter of varying types and everyone had enjoyed themselves, so it was well worth the effort.

[youtube id=”9dbrD-pcEgk” width=”100%” height=”300px”]

It was then decided to turn this into a monthly event. The next month we went to Gyllyngvase Beach and did the same thing, and I filmed some of it. One of the divers was actually a BBC reporter, and he liked the footage so much that he showed his boss. It was then shown to BBC TV who liked it and combined the litter picking story with a camera I had found six weeks prior to the litter pick. This is the story that did the rounds.

Underwater-litter-picking-2The following month we went to Castle Beach, in some rather inclement conditions. We had spoken with some locals who regularly cleaned the beaches; they did a surface pick while we went underwater.

Pendennis headland was our next target, our best turn-out so far, with 15 divers collecting rubbish.

Over the past few months I had been in contact with Beach Care, part of Keep Britain Tidy – they organise beach litter picks around Devon and Cornwall. We had arranged a combined event with Tremough (Falmouth University), where there would be both surface and underwater litter collections. Nineteen divers in all went in, a split of half locals and half students.

Our last litter pick of 2012 was conducted back at Swanpool. There was litter there but not in the quantity we had found originally, we had made a difference.

During the start of 2013, the combined easterly winds and freezing conditions caused us to take a break from litter collection. By May the water temperature still hadn’t really increased but we decided to have a go. The plan for this year is to keep up with the monthly picks but also to try and get people to pick litter during social dives. The first social dive at Gyllyngvase proved mildly successful; it gives us a base to work on though.

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

Marine Life & Conservation

Parineeti Chopra teams up with PADI to create Ocean Change

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PADI® is thrilled to announce an exceptional PADI AmbassaDiver™: Indian actress, singer and PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Parineeti Chopra.

“A PADI AmbassaDiver is someone who is passionate about using their force for good to encourage others to protect our blue planet,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer. “We could not have found a more respected and authentic partner as Ms. Chopra, a long time ocean lover, to advance our shared mission of saving the ocean. She is unmatched as a shining example of how to protect what you love – and inspire others to do the same.”

Chopra, who has always loved the ocean, experienced the magic beneath the surface in 2013 when she took her first breath underwater in Bali. As soon as she surfaced from that dive, she was hooked – and protecting the ocean became very personal for her, receiving her PADI Open Water Diver certification later that year in Palau. Since then, she has inspired others around the world, from her family and friends to fans in India– to try scuba diving so they can join her in seeking adventure and saving the ocean.

“The first time I came up to the surface after diving, I was crying because it was such a life-changing experience,” says Ms. Chopra. “It is now something I can’t live without. I make sure I do a diving trip every three months despite my work schedule because it is my form of meditation. And it is the place I am immensely passionate about protecting.”

“We are all equal underwater and all speak the same language. Over the years I have seen the changes that have taken place beneath the surface. During my time as a brand ambassador for Tourism Australia, I witnessed the bleaching and damage that has occurred to the Great Barrier Reef.  I was so sad to see this and am now committed to being a diver with a purpose. I have also seen first-hand how marine reserves, like the ones in Sipadan, Malaysia and Palau, prove how valuable marine protected areas are. As a PADI Diver, I want to make sure that our entire blue planet gets the protection it deserves.” continues Ms. Chopra.

With over 67 million social media followers and having recently starred in the Netflix movie The Girl on the Train, Chopra joins an elite group of celebrity influencers determined to take personal action and create real change for healthier oceans. Spending nearly all her free time diving around the world, Chopra shares her love for the ocean with her fans, as diving is an important part of her life that allows her to return to nature and reset. She will work with PADI to encourage others to experience the beautiful world underwater as PADI Divers and join her in helping to achieve balance between humanity and the ocean.

“PADI created the AmbassaDiver programmeme to support extraordinary divers who dedicate their lives to illuminating the path that leads from curiosity, exploration, and discovery to understanding, stewardship and action. Ms. Chopra is playing a very important role in ocean conservation, lighting the way for others to become divers themselves and mobilising communities worldwide to seek adventure and save the ocean with her,” continues Valette Wirth.

Ms. Chopra has big plans for 2022 – including becoming a real-life PADI Mermaid and taking part in citizen science projects during her dive trips around the world. Follow Chopra’s dive adventures, projects and hands-on conservation efforts with PADI on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about Chopra and the rest of the PADI AmbassaDiver team visit www.padi.com/ambassadivers.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Ghost Fishing UK land the prize catch at the Fishing News Awards

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The charity Ghost Fishing UK was stunned to win the Sustainability Award.

The winners were selected by a panel of industry judges and the award recognises innovation and achievement in improving sustainability and environmental responsibility within the UK or Irish fishing industries in 2021.

Nominees must have demonstrated a unique and innovative response to an environmental sustainability issue within the UK or Irish industry, demonstrating that the project has gone above and beyond standard practice, and provided evidence of its impact. The judges look particularly for projects that have influenced a significant change in behaviour and/or that have inspired broader awareness and/or engagement.

Ghost Fishing UK originated in 2015, training voluntary scuba divers to survey and recover lost fishing gear, with the aim to either return it to the fishing industry or recycle it. The charity is run entirely by volunteers and has gone from strength to strength, only last year winning the Best Plastic Campaign at the Plastic Free Awards.

Now, the charity has also been recognised at seemingly the opposite end of the spectrum. This is a unique achievement as trustee Christine Grosart explains;

We have always held the belief that working with the fishing industry is far more productive than being against it, in terms of achieving our goals to reduce and remove lost fishing gear.

The positive response to our fisheries reporting system that we received from both the fishing industry and the marine environment sector, was evidence that working together delivers results.

The feedback we got from the awards evening and the two-day Scottish Skipper Expo where we had an exhibit the following day, was that the fishing industry despises lost fishing gear as much as we do and the fishers here are very rarely at fault. It is costly to them to lose gear and they will make every effort to get it back, but sometimes they can’t. That is where we come in, to try to help. Everyone wins, most of all the environment. You can’t ask for much more.”

Following the awards, Ghost Fishing UK held an exhibit at the Scottish Skipper expo at the new P&J Live exhibition centre in Aberdeen.

This gave us a fantastic opportunity to meet so many people in the fishing industry, all of whom were highly supportive of our work and wanted to help us in any way they could. This has opened so many opportunities for the charity and our wish list which has been on the slow burner for the last 7 years, was exceeded in just 3 days. We came away from the events exhausted, elated, humbled, grateful and most of all, excited.”

Trustee and Operations Officer, Fred Nunn, is in charge of the diving logistics such as arranging boats and organising the divers, who the charity trains in house, to give up their free time to volunteer.

He drove from Cornwall to attend the awards and the exhibition: “What a crazy and amazing few days up in Scotland! It was awesome to meet such a variety of different people throughout the industry, who are all looking at different ways of improving the sustainability and reduction of the environmental impact of the fishing industry.

It was exciting to have so many people from the fishing industry approaching us to find out more about what we do, but also what they could offer. Fishermen came to us with reports and offers of help, using their vessels and other exhibitors tried to find ways that their product or service could assist in our mission.”

  • Ghost Fishing UK uses hard boat charters from Cornwall to Scotland for the diving projects, paying it forward to the diving community.
  • The charity relies on reports of lost fishing gear from the diving and fishing community and to date has received well over 200 reports, culminating on over 150 survey and ghost gear recovery dives, amounting to over 1000 individual dives and diver hours by the volunteer team members.
  • You can find more information at ghostfishing.co.uk
  • If you are a fisher who knows of any lost fishing gear, you can report it to the charity here: ghostfishing.co.uk/fishermans-reporting
  • The charity is heading to Shetland for a week-long project in the summer of 2023. If you would like to support this project, please contact them at: info@ghostfishing.co.uk

Chair of Ghost Fishing UK and professional technical diving instructor Dr Richard Walker was immensely proud of the team’s achievements;

I’ve been a scuba diver since 1991 and have met thousands of divers in that time. I’d be hard pushed to think of one of them that wasn’t concerned about conservation of our marine environment. To be recognised by the fishing industry for our efforts in sustainability is a huge honour for us, and has encouraged our team to work even harder to find, survey and remove lost fishing gear from the seas. The fact that the fishing industry recognises our efforts, and appreciates our stance as a group that wants to work alongside them is one of the highlights of our charity’s history, and we look forward to building the relationship further.

To find out more about Ghost Fishing UK visit their website here.


All images: Ghost Fishing UK

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