Whitsands Bay – Cornwall, UK

Walking down the cliff to Whitsands bay

Whitsands bay is in south east Cornwall, just over the Tamar river from Plymouth. A beautiful sandy beach sits beneath huge cliffs and the beach is only accessible at low tide, because of this any plastic left on the beach will be swept away by the high water. After spending the weekend at the bay, I went for a short walk with my dog on Monday evening. I was so disgusted by the amount of plastic washed up on the beach that I had to run back up the cliff to get a few bin bags and another pair of hands!

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The plastic had all been washed up to the base of the cliffs on the last spring tide.

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A few of the branded products we found.

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We managed to collect 3 full bin bags in 30 minutes!

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The hardest part was carrying all the bags up the cliffs, but we had help from Elmo the dog….

It is very satisfying to leave a beach having cleared so much rubbish and it makes it even more worthwhile when you can also collect some sea gems!

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Guest Entry: Petite Anse, Seychelles. Written by Jo Eames

I met Clare 3 years ago; we were working together on a Humpback whale survey project off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Living across the globe from each other, but both working in the marine environment field, we have remained friends. I have been following her blog of beach cleans and now as I work on the beach I decided it was time to write a guest entry.

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I moved to the Seychelles in March this year and joined the WiseOceans team as a Marine Educator at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. Seychelles is a collection of granitic and coralline islands in the Indian Ocean just below the equator. In fact 99.9% of the exclusive economic zone of the Seychelles is water. The largest island, and the one on which I am located, is Mahe; with a surface area of 150km² and home to only 90,000 people. Petite Anse is located in south-west Mahe, and although it is mostly occupied by resort guests, as with all beaches in Seychelles it remains public. The beach is approximately 400m in length, not particularly wide and backed by shrubs and trees.

When the winds blow from the south-east this bay is sheltered, calm and idyllic. The white sand looks untouched, with little to no seaweed, shells or corals. During the north-west season, which is now upon us, we see some changes occur on the beach. One of the most noticeable is the large amount of rubbish washing up amongst the seaweed.

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In our role as WiseOceans Marine Educators, myself and colleague Charlotte conduct a daily beach walk – a great way to start the day! We are on the lookout for any variations to the beach or signs of nesting turtles, and of course we always take a bag and pick up any litter we find. During the south-east season our haul is minimal, maybe a few bottle tops and cigarette butts. But with the change in winds our daily treasure hunts have increased in scale, with some days filling 5 bags with washed up litter! Items have included but not limited to:image005

  • Flip-flops
  • Micro plastics
  • Polystyrene
  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic drink bottles
  • Drink cans
  • Scraps of fabric
  • Glass bottles
  • Light bulbs
  • Plastic toys – my favourite being the army of soldiers

 

Examining the items that are washed up we could conclude the majority of it is thrown overboard or lost from leisure boats. Arriving directly from the open ocean, some items have been floating around for a considerable time and come ashore covered in barnacles, crabs and algae.

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Keeping our beach clean is a team effort and luckily we are supported by the resort staff who all lend a helping hand. For those new to the beach witnessing this change has been an eye opener to the issues of marine litter. I think they are especially surprised at the time it takes for some items to biodegrade and the sheer quantity of it (up to 20 single flip-flops in one trip). It’s also interesting for them to see us scrambling in the sand to collect all the micro plastics, as even the smallest pieces can have a negative impact on marine wildlife.

Guest Entry: Dimitrios Kaloudis – Arillas Beach, Corfu, Greece

This summer was a landmark for me; for the first time in eight years I got to spend a full summer at home in Arillas, Corfu while writing my PhD thesis. It was a special summer in many ways but mostly because I got the chance to catch up with childhood friends and to indulge in my greatest passion; the sea! Spearfishing Sundays, taking pedal boats to secret beaches, day-time and night-time swims and walking the dogs on the beach at sunset were my chosen ways to clear my head after hard writing stints.

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However there was a sad twist to this beauty; the amount of plastic rubbish on the beach. From millimetre-size debris washed-up by the waves to cups of coffee, bottles, ice-cream wrappers etc. left behind by people. I don’t know if there was more than when I was a teenager or whether it was always there and it was my eyes that had been opened. Either way, on every walk along the beach I saw plastic everywhere and knowing how much marine life it kills, this left me quite frustrated. I resolved to take a plastic bag with me every time went to the beach was usually able to pick up 5-20 pieces of plastic without really looking for them.

At the same time I was very happy to find that my Marine Biology course mate Clare has been doing this for years and has created Today’s Catch blog about her beach cleans! She kindly gave me permission to write a guest entry in the hope that more people pick up this habit or at least stop leaving their rubbish on the beach. So here goes…

Epic Beach Clean – 1st of September 2014

One of the special features of Arillas is that part of the beach is quite isolated. This part is one of the oldest and most well-known nudist beaches in Greece. There is also a strong presence of tourists, who come to Arillas for “spiritual” holidays (meditation etc.) and one of the main attractions for them has always been the isolated and pristine nudist beach. While the main part of the beach is cleaned by the locals regularly, the nudist beach does not get as much attention because access is not easy and no-one is making money out of it as there are no sunbeds or businesses close by.

Towards the end of the summer I started noticing that people would just leave their umbrellas, beach mats and bags of other beach equipment on the beach to save carrying them up and down the steep walk to their apartment every day. Worse though I noticed people would leave broken umbrellas and beach mats on the beach rather than carry them away and dispose them properly. Over the whole summer this made for lots of umbrellas! Some even got creative, making little shading huts with all the rubbish they found lying around!

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On the 1st of September the first storm of autumn was forecast to hit our shores. It is normal to get a wild storm sometime in late-August, early-September for a few days almost to signify the end of high-season. Thinking about how much plastic there was on our beach from a whole summer of tourist activity and how much of it was about to be broken up and carried into the sea by this storm (esp. the umbrellas) slightly terrified me so I decided to do my best with whoever could help. My good friend Feli and her mum Sabina were up for it, so the afternoon before the storm was about to hit we armed ourselves with ropes and bin bags and headed down to the beach.

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Sabina and Feli

I thought it would be easy but when we started cleaning we quickly realised the task was much bigger than we expected. There were hundreds of pieces of polystyrene mixed with driftwood on the upper shore as well as plastic bottles, cups and bags and 40-50 old umbrellas and about the same number of old beach mats spread along about 400-500 metres of beach. There was also an inflatable canoe full of beach stuff that was badly (if at all) secured. We all rushed around, slightly overwhelmed, with the wind picking up, the waves coming in and the sun going down, trying to do as much as we could.

Trying to work as fast as possible before the waves come in.

Trying to work as fast as possible before the waves come in.

I took the task of collecting and dragging all the old umbrellas and beach mats while Feli and Sabina filled bag after bag with rubbish. After about three hours of hard work all our bags were full, we had much more stuff than we could physically carry back to civilisation and the light was failing so we decided to call it off. We secured all new/usable items as far up the cliff as possible (as well as a huge pile of old umbrellas that was just too much to carry) and dragged the rest back to the car. I believe we picked up or secured about 60-80% of what was present on the beach – certainly all the big items – but I’m sure we could have gone on for another few hours and there would still be rubbish to collect.

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There doesn't seem to be much plastic among the driftwood. Until you start looking!

There doesn’t seem to be much plastic among the driftwood. Until you start looking!

It was nearly 10pm by the time we were finished and the waves were getting bigger and bigger so we decided to celebrate with a night-time swim in the rough sea. Quite intimidating considering how rough the sea was but lots of fun! We finished the day with a meal at Porto Timoni restaurant, with awesome food, overlooking the cliffs to the sea and with the storm breaking out on cue; just as we got into the restaurant!

First pile of umbrellas and bags the next day.

First pile of umbrellas and bags the next day.

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The storm lasted a couple more days, making access to the beach difficult but we were happy to see the next day that all the items we secured were still there. I had to leave for the UK on the 5th of September but Feli, despite her bad back, ensured the last pile of umbrellas and beach mats was taken away and disposed of properly.

Morning after and the second wave of the storm is about to hit. (picture by Thalassa Restaurant)

Morning after and the second wave of the storm is about to hit. (picture by Thalassa Restaurant)

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So I have to say a huge thank you to Feli and Sabina for the huge effort when really they were supposed to be on their holidays and thank you Clare for hosting our story! This is not about the beauty of the beach, it is not about the image of our resort. It is about the inhabitants of our ocean, the whales, the dolphins, the turtles, the seabirds. It is about our grandchildren so they can inherit an ocean that is still alive.

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