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Marine Life & Conservation

Underwater Litter Picking In Cornwall



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.

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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

Marine Life & Conservation

The Shark Trust Great Shark Snapshot is back



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:

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



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.

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