This weekend (September 19 to 22), you could join environment minister George Eustice at the Great British Beach Clean, hosted by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Mr Eustice will join volunteers at a beach clean at Porthtowan, near St Agnes, on Saturday, September 20.
From October 17 to 19, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) will join forces with The Crown Estate and World Animal Protection (WAP) for the fourth annual Autumn Beach Clean Series. The initiative aims to attract 3,500 volunteers to 150 coastal locations around the UK, including popular beaches, surf spots, coastal habitats and holiday resorts.
“If you’re not a regular beach goer or you don’t live by the sea, beach litter is often out of sight – and therefore out of mind,” she adds. “We’re delighted that the minister, who is county born and bred, will get a feel for the impact litter can have, not just on the wildlife but on the economy too,” says Rachel Wyatt, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer who leads the September event.
The nationwide beach clean includes many other Cornish beaches, with events taking place in Summerleaze (Bude), Chapel Porth, Gunwalloe, Gwithian, Hendra, Kennack Sands, Marazion, Mother Ivey’s Bay, Par Sands, Porthtowan, Seaton, Daymer Bay and Porthpean.
Last year, an MCS survey revealed that on average, volunteers collected 2,309 pieces of litter for every kilometre of coast cleaned. This is the highest volume of litter to have been found on beaches since records began 20 years ago.
This year’s Great British Beach Clean – which aims to draw 10,000 volunteers to clean 400 of the country’s beaches – will focus on where litter comes from by studying labels and branding. This will allow the MCS to reach out to individual retailers and manufacturers, and look at ways in which they can work together to help prevent beach litter and support our coastline for years to come.
At sea, it is estimated that 100,000 marine mammals and a million seabirds die every year through entanglement in and ingestion of marine litter – including drinks bottles, carrier bags, fishing waste and sewage-related debris. Plastics can take hundreds of years to degrade in the marine environment, haunting marine life, ecosystems and compromising the enjoyment and experiences of coastal visitors everywhere. And unclean water, tainted with the remains of sewage, can have adverse effects on recreational water users and aquatic organisms alike, with diseases and harmful bacteria causing silent complications and damage to health.
Under the spotlight at this year’s SAS event is ghost fishing gear – the term used for lost or abandoned commercial fishing gear that continues to catch, injure and kill fish, marine mammals, seabirds and other ocean wildlife. Over 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are left in oceans globally each year. In the tangle net fishery off the southern tip of Cornwall, it was recently found that 18 vessels lost a total of 263 nets per year – a total length of 24km.
Alyx Elliott, campaign manager at World Animal Protection, says: “Our Sea Change campaign aims to protect 8,000 marine species that live and breed around the coasts of the British Isles – including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, seabirds and turtles – from the devastating impact of ‘ghost gear’, and we are working to uncover what this largely unknown issue really looks like in the UK. We hope the Autumn Beach Clean Series will give people a chance to find out more, help monitor the scale of the problem on UK beaches, and identify positive solutions to exorcise our haunted oceans.”
- To find out dates and times at individual beaches and to sign up to the Great British Beach Clean in Cornwall, call 01989 567807 or register at mcsuk.org/greatbritishbeachclean
- To organize a beach clean to help Surfers Against Sewage, call 01872 553 001 or e-mail email@example.com