Connect with us

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.

[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

Marine Life & Conservation

Shaping Tomorrow’s Shores: The Future of Coastal Habitat Restoration



Coastal Habitat Restoration

A new partnership between World Wide Fund for Nature – Netherlands (WWF-NL) , the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) and Coastal Dynamics will spearhead an initiative to define future conservation and restoration projects within Dutch Caribbean coastal habitats. Centered around mangroves and seagrass beds, this ambitious feasibility study aims to craft a portfolio of forward-looking projects. The objective is to fortify these areas against escalating threats like climate change, pollution, and unsustainable coastal development, ensuring their sustained health and resilience.

The Dutch Caribbean is home to unique island ecosystems facing challenges from overdevelopment, climate change, and other environmental pressures. Coastal ecosystems represent critically important areas, particularly in regards to their biodiversity, climate resilience, and cultural heritage. The proposed feasibility study seeks to bridge gaps in expertise, resources, and collaboration across all six of the Dutch Caribbean islands (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius).

Coastal Habitat Restoration

Photo: Henkjan Kievit


The primary goal of the project is to conduct an in-depth feasibility study under the DCNA’s Conservation and Restoration of Key Habitats Program. Key components of the study include assessing the current status of mangroves and seagrass beds, stakeholder engagement, and conducting an overall resource assessment.

Nature-Based Solutions

The study will focus on coastal area restoration, specifically targeting mangroves and seagrass beds in collaboration with Dutch Caribbean Park Organizations. The aim is to develop a nature-inclusive approach with nature-based solutions to enhance resilience and sustainability.  Overall, this project has two main objectives:

  • Feasibility Study: Assess the viability of conservation efforts, including technical, financial, and human resource requirements.
  • Knowledge Sharing & Capacity Building: Present findings, address knowledge gaps, and build capacity among Park Organizations for effective restoration initiatives.
Coastal Habitat Restoration

Photo: Christian König

Forward Planning

The feasibility study’s success is crucial for creating a comprehensive understanding of coastal habitat conditions, fostering collaboration, and laying the groundwork for future restoration programs. By unifying efforts, the study aims to enhance communication, knowledge sharing, and resource utilization across all six islands.

Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)

Header Image: Kai Wulf

Continue Reading


Hunting Lionfish Safely and Responsibly in Curaçao




Curaçao, a picturesque island in the southern Caribbean, is not only renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture but also for its commitment to preserving its marine ecosystems. One of the key threats to these delicate ecosystems is the invasive lionfish. To combat this menace, responsible hunting practices are crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao, including the use of pole spears (the only legal method in Curaçao). We will provide you with the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper. We will also address what to do if you are stung by a lionfish and emphasize the importance of consulting with local experts before embarking on your lionfish hunting adventure.

Why Safe and Responsible Lionfish Hunting is Important

Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are native to the Indo-Pacific region but have become invasive predators in the Caribbean, including the waters surrounding Curaçao. Their voracious appetite for native fish species and rapid reproduction rates poses a severe threat to the delicate balance of marine ecosystems in the region. The introduction of lionfish has led to a decline in native fish populations and the degradation of coral reefs.

To counteract the lionfish invasion, responsible hunting practices are essential. Hunting lionfish can help control their population and protect the native marine life of Curaçao’s waters. However, it is imperative to follow safe and responsible hunting techniques to minimize the impact on the environment and ensure the safety of both divers and the marine ecosystem.

Understanding the Pole Spear

In Curaçao, the only legal method for hunting lionfish is using a pole spear. It’s important to note that a pole spear is distinct from other spearfishing equipment, such as a Hawaiian sling or a spear gun with a trigger mechanism. The use of Hawaiian slings or spear guns with triggers is illegal in Curaçao for lionfish hunting due to safety and conservation concerns.


A pole spear consists of a long, slender pole with a pointed tip, often made of stainless steel or fiberglass, designed for precision and accuracy. Unlike a trigger-based spear gun, a pole spear requires the diver to manually draw back on a rubber band then release towards the target, providing a more controlled and selective approach to hunting.

How to Hunt Lionfish Using a Pole Spear Responsibly

When using a pole spear to hunt lionfish, it’s crucial to do so responsibly to ensure the safety of both the diver and the marine environment. Here are some essential guidelines on how to hunt lionfish using a pole spear responsibly:

  1. Safety First: Always prioritize safety when diving and hunting. Ensure you have the necessary training and experience for hunting lionfish. Consider the Lionfish Scuba Dive Experience offered by Ocean Encounters. This opportunity allows participants to learn under the expert guidance of local scuba diving professionals.
  2. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with local regulations and restrictions related to lionfish hunting in Curaçao. Respect no-take zones and marine protected areas.
  3. Target Only Lionfish: Use your pole spear exclusively for lionfish hunting. Do not attempt to spear any other species, as this can harm the fragile ecosystem.
  4. Aim for Precision: Approach your target lionfish carefully and aim for a precise shot to minimize the risk of injuring other marine life or damaging the coral reef.
  5. Use a Zookeeper: A Zookeeper is a specialized container designed to safely store and transport lionfish after capture. It prevents the lionfish’s venomous spines from causing harm and keeps them secure during the dive.
  6. Respect Lionfish Anatomy: Target the head of the lionfish and stay away from its venomous spines. Aim for a clean and humane kill to minimize suffering.
  7. Avoid Overhunting: Do not overhunt lionfish in a single dive. Limit the number of lionfish you catch to what you can safely handle and process.
  8. Practice Good Buoyancy: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid inadvertently damaging the reef or stirring up sediment, which can harm marine life.
  9. Dispose Responsibly: Once you’ve caught lionfish, carefully place them in your Zookeeper. Do not release them back into the water, as they are invasive and harmful to the ecosystem.
  10. Report Your Catch: If applicable, report your lionfish catch to local authorities or organizations involved in lionfish management to contribute to data collection efforts.

In the Unlikely Event of a Lionfish Sting

While lionfish stings are rare, it’s essential to know how to respond if you or someone you are diving with is stung. Lionfish have venomous spines that can cause pain, swelling, and even more severe reactions in some cases. Here’s how to respond to a lionfish sting:

  1. Signal for Help: Notify your diving buddy or group immediately if you are stung.
  2. Remove Spines: If the spines are still embedded in the skin, carefully remove them with tweezers or a clean, sterile tool. Be cautious not to break the spines, as this can release more venom.
  3. Clean the Wound: Rinse the affected area with warm water to help alleviate pain and reduce the risk of infection.
  4. Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, if you experience severe symptoms, seek medical attention promptly.
  5. Seek Medical Help: If the pain and swelling worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to the venom, seek medical assistance immediately.

Consult Local Lionfish Experts

Before embarking on a lionfish hunting adventure in Curaçao, it’s crucial to consult with local and responsible dive shops or organizations dedicated to lionfish management, such as Lionfish Caribbean.


These experts can provide valuable insights, tips, and up-to-date information on how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly, hunting locations, safety measures, and environmental conservation efforts.

Start Planning your Next Caribbean Adventure

Knowing how to hunt lionfish safely and responsibly in Curaçao is not just an exciting underwater activity but also a crucial step in protecting the island’s marine ecosystems. By using a pole spear and adhering to the top 10 safe hunting practices, including the use of a Zookeeper, you can contribute to the control of the invasive lionfish population while preserving the delicate balance of Curaçao’s underwater world.

Remember that safety should always be your top priority when diving and hunting lionfish. In the unlikely event of a lionfish sting, knowing how to respond can make all the difference. By consulting with local experts and following ethical and legal guidelines, you can enjoy a rewarding and responsible lionfish hunting experience while safeguarding the beauty of Curaçao’s marine environment for generations to come. Please always dive safely and responsibly, and together, we can make a positive impact on Curaçao’s underwater world while learning how to hunt lionfish effectively.

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Enjoy a liveaboard adventure for less. There are some fantastic savings to be made around the world on the Siren & Master Fleet boats. Book now! Save up to 40% on the Bahamas Master and in Truk Lagoon on the Pacific Master. Save up to 30% on the Bahamas Master, Solomon Master, Indo Siren, Palau Siren, and Philippines Siren. Save up to 20% on Galapagos Master, The Junk and The Phinisi in Thailand. Valid on new bookings only. Saving valid on boat only. Terms and conditions apply. Call 01962 302 087 Email  More Less

Instagram Feed