Friday, 27 September 2013

Karli Drinkwater tells us what inspired her to become a Sea Champion:

"The sea fascinates, captivates and terrifies me. The moment I taste the salt in the wind, inhale that ripe coastal tang or hear the reassuring lapping of water and swooshing of the tide, I feel at home.

When I learned to dive a few years ago, my life changed forever. Witnessing the imagination of the underwater world and weightlessly experiencing our beautiful planet gives me a rush of calm and excitement every time. There is no feeling like it on earth. It’s impossible to look at the jewels of a coral reef or creatures that have been around for millions of years and not get a lump in your throat. How lucky we are to see such beauty.

But as much as it rejuvenates and restores the soul, the sea makes me nervous. Or more accurately, what’s happening there does. Pollution, overfishing and climate change are destroying the oceans. We are taking too much fish out, putting too much rubbish in and worst of all, we know that it’s happening. I became a Sea Champion with the Marine Conservation Society because I wanted to do something about it. I don’t want future generations to look back on us and ask why we didn’t care, why we treated our planet so barbarically, why we ravaged our natural resources and left them with nothing.

As much as facing the facts is oppressive and bleak, there is good news. We can turn it around. There is still time, but only if we all pull together and make change now.

Since becoming a Sea Champion, I have braved the cold and choppy waters of the English Channel to raise money for MCS; I have spread the message of eating sustainable fish at ocean events and have taken to Westminster with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, dressed as a neon orange crab, to fight for Marine Conservation Zones.

Being a Sea Champion is not only worthwhile, it’s a giggle and makes you feel like you’re making a difference. Conservation is action. So rather than feel down in the dumps about how much of a mess we’re in, the Sea Champions crew gives you the chance to meet like-minded people who also care deeply for the seas and want to make a change.

I have become so inspired from the Sea Champions scheme that I left my job as a producer in London to work on a marine conservation project in Thailand. For six weeks I worked on building artificial reefs, surveying underwater areas of interest and cleaning up beaches and dive sites with Eco Koh Tao. It felt empowering to be doing my bit every day. Through the hours of creating coral nurseries, building new structures or ticking off the amount of species indicative of that region on my underwater clipboard, I became peaceful.

At times, the more I learned, the more frustrated I felt. The reality of the situation hit me hard – hearing about the amount of reefs that are already lost or severely degraded; about the thousands of plant and animal species that are threatened with extinction; that millions of sharks are slaughtered for their fins every year, while the rest is thrown back in, all make you want to stick your head in the sand. But it’s time to cherish and protect. It’s time we all encouraged the next generation to question, to wonder and to become the guardians of the oceans better than we have. Without the oceans, we would not exist.

Becoming a Sea Champion isn’t just about saving the seas; it’s about saving ourselves."

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Sea Champion Anna Keirle, from Ross-on-Wye, tells us about her experiences volunteering at the 20th annual Beachwatch Big Weekend, at MCS's flagship beach - Sand Bay:

"Early Sunday morning we set off from Ross-on-Wye on an MCS road trip down to Sand Bay just outside Weston-super-mare for the Beachwatch Big Weekend!

The gazebos were set up and everything was ready for the day. Sam, MCS's Chief Executive, told the gathered crowd how important the clean was and exactly what to look for. Everyone was raring to go gloves and litter pickers at the ready.

It was another grey Sunday morning, but as the day warmed up the mist rolled back with the tide and the gathered group of volunteers and MCS staff scattered along the strandline collecting rubbish.

We weighed in what we had collected and there was a great pile of bin bags full of litter removed from the beach, very satisfying. I was shocked by the amount of cotton buds we found tangled in with the seaweed and sand, along with typical disposable items like Polystyrene cups and packing chips. There were also some more surprising finds like shotgun cartridges, and some toy soldiers!

The plant walk was fascinating. We looked at grasses and plants from different habitats of the beach and salt marshes of Sand Bay. The enthusiastic talk drew in some passers by and the group was all the merrier tramping through the dunes identifying, amongst others, Sea Buckthorn and Marram Grass.

Another clean took in the other side of the beach, more rubbish collected, more fishing lines and bottle caps. There were kites to make from carrier bags and turtles from egg boxes, and some of the children (and adults) had their faces painted with lovely marine themes. So lovely, that I forgot about the turtle on my cheek and got odd looks at the petrol station on the way home. Jealousy I suspect.

Another excellent and productive day spent with MCS."

Image: Anna Keirle


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Wow, what an amazing weekend! Two days dedicated to promoting marine conservation both in the water and out. Sea Champions Natasha and Anna tell us about their experiences of the Plymouth Blue Mile.


"Lady luck was definitely smiling on us as the sun shone brightly over the Blue Mile event village on Saturday morning. The MCS stand was well equipped with activities and information and the team of staff and Sea Champions Volunteers were raring to chat to people about our work. It was also a real treat to have marine photographer extraordinaire Paul Naylor and his family on the stand with us. Paul very kindly helped with the Touch Table, sharing lots of fun facts about life under our seas. Did you know that cuttlefish have green blood?!

By midday the atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was having a great time. Larry the Lobster came out to please the crowds (and frighten a few dogs!) and six of the MCS team hit the water for the Aqua-tri. Plenty of cheering and hooting ensued! Back at the stand, Litter Pick Panic and the Touch Table were a hit with the children coming to learn more about our seaside.

All in all it was a super day and for me one of the best bits was getting the chance to spend time with other Sea Champions. Anna and Alex were super stars, donning the lobster costume and getting on a paddleboard all in the name of marine conservation!"


"It was an inspiring weekend spent at the Ecover Blue Mile in Plymouth with MCS. Lots of local children met Larry the lobster (Larry met Tim Baillie Olympic slalom canoeist and wore his Olympic Gold for a bit. When I say Larry, I mean me in the suit, and the gold was tantalisingly close on the outside of the costume hanging on the eye slit!) Stand up paddle boards , kayaks and swimmers took to the water en masse. Some races were more competitive than others , but all drew great support from the watching crowds.

The gala dinner was excellent with lovely local food (and local Plymouth gin) with some great prizes and thought provoking speeches from guest speakers including Paul Rose, who had encountered plastic pollution in Franz Josef land on one of his many expeditions.

The weather on Sunday was less summery with distinctly autumnal gusts and some drizzle early afternoon. Taster sessions on the water were more fun to watch with the paddle boards a little less stable in the swell!

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend and it was great to interact with the positive crowd that the event attracted."

Sea Champion Natasha with MCS's Dr. Solandt, Anna disguised as Larry the Lobster, Olympic slalom canoeist Tim Baillie, and MCS's Andy Bool. Check out more photos from the weekend on the Sea Champions South West England facebook page.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Hang on to your tackle in Cardigan Bay!

MCS Angling litter bins are now installed at six locations around Ceredigion thanks to Friends of Cardigan Bay (FoCB)!

Phil Hughes, FoCB's chairman says: "The bins have worked well in their first three months, collecting a whole host of discarded line, hooks and general fishing waste. Whilst I appreciate litter on our beaches can be an on-going problem throughout the UK, angling line and hooks are particularly harmful to wildlife. Our oceans and wildlife have been abused for too long, but it's pleasing to see that attitudes are slowly changing."

Phil thanks volunteers for emptying the bins, anglers who are using the facility, and Ceredigion County Council who have supported the scheme.

Currently Angling litter bins are located at Aberystwyth (wooden jetty, stone jetty & Constitution hill), Borth (cliff end), Clarach (South Beach), and Newquay (outside the Boat place).

If you are interested in setting up angling litter bins in your area, download our "How to" guide and online resources.
Hang On To Your Tackle

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Sea Champion Crystal Golden-Hann tell us about representing MCS at the Bristol Festival of Nature:

  "This was my first outing as a Sea Champion on the front line. I’d previously taken part in beach cleans but this time I’d be manning the stand, talking to the public and answering questions. Other members of the team put me at ease, explaining the main issues we would be focusing on: promoting the Good Fish Guide, the Sea Champions scheme, beach cleaning and benefits of membership.

It was really heartening to see how many people are interested in the work MCS does. Many people were surprised at the sort of rubbish that we’ve found on our beaches during the beach cleans which illustrates how important education about pollution is. So many people don’t realise that what is flushed down a toilet can end up in the sea and on the beach.

We also had a small sand pit which we filled with rubbish then kids were invited to take part in a mini ‘beach clean’. This proved to be very popular, the children absolutely loved it and hopefully we helped to inspire a future generation of marine conservationists."

Sea Champion Crystal Golden-Hann running Litter Pick Panic at the Bristol Festival of Nature 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sea Champions behind a lens this Autumn!

Sea Champions are busy with their Autumn action of taking photos for MCS!

We are always in need of photos as they are key to getting our conservation messages across. By sending us photos, Sea Champions are really helping us build our image library, so as a thank you, we're running this action as a competition!
First prize is an organic cotton ‘Save our Seas’ t-shirt worth £25 kindly, donated by Rapanui. Rapanui are an eco-fashion brand, producing award winning ethical fashion made from organic, natural fabrics in an ethical, wind powered factory. The runner up will receive a delicious bottle of M&S's Casa Leona wine.
There is no need to own a fancy camera to take part, even photos taken on a camera phone can be useful, particularly on social media and online campaigning.
Click to enter the Sea Champions photo competition and for more information on the three categories. Deadline is October 31st 2013.
Here are some of the entries so far:
A few Sea Champions photo competition eneries from Alasdair Wood, Boyd Darling and Kate Wilson.

Sea Champion Jane helps give Inner Hebridean Isle the coastal clean up of a lifetime

50 miles of Colonsay is now free from decades of debris!

Sea Champion Jane Rose has helped clean almost every inch of the island's coastline, clearing away litter left on the beaches by centuries of incoming and outgoing tides.

Jane has lived on the island for seven years was a regular beach cleaner during the project which began in March on the island's west coast and finished in mid-August at the same point.

The five and half month initiative, which cleaned 50 miles of the islands coast and filled 1,130 bags of rubbish, was supported by the Colonsay Community Council and co-ordinated by islander, Kevin Byrne.

Jane was one of a number of islanders who attended almost every cleaning session which took place for a couple of hours every Saturday of Sunday and says she was delighted to be involved.

"To think we cleaned about 98% of the island, only failing to get to a few steep gullies that were inaccessible, is pretty amazing. Now that we've got rid a lot of the of the very old rubbish, including bottles from the 1920's, massive tyres, drums of burned oil, TVs, beer barrels and fridges, we can concentrate on the litter that is either dropped or washed up now."

Jane, a beach litter artist, also found a number of bottles with messages in "one from as far away as Roddickton on the north east tip of Newfoundland from a four year old boy on summer camp there. A reply was sent and there was great excitement from the little boy and his family who we kept in contact with for a while." All the bottles and messages can be seen at

Jane's passion for the sea is what drove her to become a MCS Sea Champion: "I'm fascinated by the variety of objects I collect from Colonsay beaches everyday but horrified that so much litter ends up in the sea causing harm to wildlife, polluting the oceans, not to mention spoiling our beautiful beaches. I hope my work encourages people to reflect upon these issues and at the same time, hopefully, raise an awareness of this problem."

Jane and her fellow beach cleaners intend to keep the coastline clear of new deposits of rubbish on a regular basis - and repeat the full coastal clean-up in 2014. Fortunately it will be much easier then, because this year they had to deal with an accumulation since the dawn of time!

Some of the ways Jane and Kevin cleared litter from Colonsay

Monday, 9 September 2013

Loads of litter cleared from Luing!

Beach cleaning volunteer Jane Law tells us about ridding Luing of litter:

 "Last year we decided we were fed up with walking through litter on the rocky shores of the Scottish island of Luing. Very little, if any, rubbish is being dropped from the island - it all washes up mainly on south west facing shores. A lot of it has been there for at least 10 years, so over the last year we've cleared almost all the western side of the island - several miles! Although more litter washes up, it is much easier to do a follow up clean. 

Getting the stuff back to our car has involved long walks and an open canoe! In some places, there were lots of rope and net which were impossible to shift and was holding the soil together, so we cut the loose bits away. However, the star find so far has been an adult toy!!!!"

Loading up a canoe to remove several miles worth of litter from Luing

Thursday, 5 September 2013

"Hang on to your tackle!" in Swansea

Anglers love the Swansea coast which has some of the most popular places for recreational fishing in Wales.

However, underwater clean-ups of popular angling spots by volunteer diver group, Neptune's Army of Rubbish Cleaners, have revealed that some anglers are leaving behind snagged lines, fishing weights and hooks.

Crabs and fish can get entangled in discarded fishing line and become tethered to the seabed. Protected species like the pink sea fan can get covered in line which can take up to 600 years to break down. Rocks, ledges and beaches are left littered with food wrappers and rubbish from some irresponsible anglers.

Keen angler and Sea Champion, Stan Szajda, has been helping us keep the Swansea coast clean by installing and emptying specially designed bins for fishing line and tackle at angling hotspots in and around Swansea.

Stan has encouraged local angling shops to get on board the "Hang on to your tackle" programme by sponsoring bins and distributing our "Top Tackle Tips" to local anglers.

Anyone can take part in "Hang on to your tackle!" Is angling litter a problem in your area? If so, take a look at our support pack to help tackle the problem.

Sea Champion Stan with his newly installed angling litter bin at West Pier in Swansea. Look out for other angling bins along the coast!