Monday, 23 February 2015

Tyres for Terns!

Here’s a great story from the Forth Estuary where Scottish Sea Champions have turned fly tipped tyres into wildlife habitats! Volunteer Coordinator Matt gives us the low-down.

So on our typical quarterly beach cleans and surveys in the Forth Estuary in 2014 we found scores of fly-tipped tyres. Rather than leave these to deteriorate into the waters we decided to put them to good use.

It was mucky work as the tyres were dumped untreated and contained thick oils and contaminants that were leaching into the waters. Luckily the Great British public and Sea Champion volunteers rose to the challenge and thankfully wore old clothing! The tyres were collected and cleaned to remove chemicals and oils. Now to find a use for them rather than landfill.

Common Terns are one of our amazing species that migrate thousands of miles to our shores each summer to breed. These little fellas aren’t doing so well and have been declining in recent years. Originally they were found throughout the Forth Estuary but a mixture of disturbance, predation and vegetation growth can lead to nests failing. Most now nest in the Specially Protected Area at Leith Docks off Edinburgh but you know the saying about all your eggs and one basket so we started to look for alternate habitats to give them a helping hand.

There are numerous disused piers in the estuary that can accommodate terns if the conditions are right, this little beauty has Terns on it each year but not breeding successfully due to the exposed areas. 

Terns have been known to use rafts created from tyres to protect chicks from the elements, disturbance and from view from would be predators. So on a calm day Scottish Sea Champions set out to install the tyres and secure them with chains to create a potential seabird nesting habitat.

It would have been a long swim out but thankfully our friends at the Maid of the Forth were on hand to offer one of their wildlife watching vessels stationed in South Queensferry and North Berwick

After a little bit of effort from some passionate people we have hopefully helped our feathered marine friends for the 2015 breeding season. Mission complete!

Monday, 16 February 2015

G’Day from Jimmy & Claire, our honorary Aussie Sea Champions

When we were contacted last summer by Jimmy explaining that he was coming to the UK for a couple of months and would love to get involved with Sea Champions we certainly didn’t want to turn a kind offer of help away so our solution was to make Jimmy and his sister Claire honorary Sea Champions! Read on to hear about their marine conservation adventures as they made their way round the UK coastline.

"In the beginning of July 2014, my sister Claire and I made our way to London and then out west, and ended up helping at a stand on an insanely cramped beach in sunny Weymouth, England. Here, this story begins, that being our adventure along the stunning British coastline.

I’d chosen to get in touch with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) prior to leaving Australia to organise some volunteering. Coming off a cracker of a summer on the Victorian coast, having thrown myself into everything from rock-pool rambles to night time snorkels chasing dumpling squid, and a few days micro-chipping fairy penguins in between, I was pumping with energy and enthusiasm to continue to help out wherever I could, even if that was in a foreign land.

Volunteering with MCS introduced us to a new way of travelling. We continued to explore but now with a new twist, one with a deeper purpose than simply taking in the towns, countryside and people on display. We started to see the coastline as our own, with our holiday time allocated to cleaning beaches of vast piles of rubbish rubbing off on us, forming a sense of ownership that transcends homogenised ‘borders’.

We offered MCS an opportunity to visually promote large tracts of the British coast from the eyes of a road-tripper, live, through social media such as twitter and Instagram. Each night, as Claire was settling down in her half-broken tent, I was in the two-door car with my knees around my ears, uploading and transferring the days photos to multiple locations, and sharing info we’d discovered during the day as well.

We ran numerous beach clean ups along the way in Wales and Scotland; on the tip of the Gower Peninsula, at Tresaith (the first heritage coastline in Britain), outside Tenby (with its low-tide stranded boats), on the Ynyslas sand dunes, and on multiple lochs (Lyne, Long, Sween, Broom). Whilst at Brighouse Bay in southern Scotland, Claire and I focused solely on counting the strands of washed up rope from the fishing industry. We picked up over two thousand pieces between us, in a little under an hour! Terrible.

Volunteering on the road wasn't easy, and in hindsight I would've liked a few more weeks to really take our time, staying in spots for days rather than hours. But return to the ‘real world’ we must, with a further appreciation for how huge and diverse the world is, and a priceless collection of memories.

Now it’s time to work on my own country’s coastal problems – teaming up with the Australian Marine Conservation Society for the “fight for the reef” campaign, whilst taking the environmental message to all that can listen. 

To the passionate people we met at MCS, we thank you all for having us on board as honorary Sea Champions, and wish every single one of you the best in the fight to protect and save British waters from those that the waters have (again, ironically) protected for centuries.. Peace!!"

To read Jimmy's full story or peruse through a few more of his beautiful seaside photos pop on over to his blog It's Jimmy Nails

Here's a quick update from Jimmy 6 months on: "I'm now co-coordinating the Victorian branch of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) down here, with heaps of events and our major campaign ticking along. It's been an amazing learning curve and experience the past six months. We've had a Rally For The Reef, dive shop talks, national park and marine protected area walk'n'talks, beach cleans, organising invasive species workshops. I'm loving it!"

Friday, 13 February 2015

Being a Sea Champion - Cassie & Rebecca give us the lowdown

South West Sea Champions Cassie Greenhill and Rebecca Adams spent the summer of 2014 volunteering at the MCS head office. In this short video they share with us what they got up to.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Guest Post: "How I went from face scrubs to Sea Championing", volunteer Imogen tells us her story

Imogen's research: microbeads extracted from popular facial scrubs

"Guilty as charged. There I was happily using facial scrubs and other cosmetics that contained micro-beads and it had never even occurred to me that I would be washing my face or brushing my teeth with plastic fragments, why would it? Like so many others I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was contributing daily to marine litter.

It was only when I was introduced to microplastics while studying for my undergraduate degree that I was made aware of the damage I was personally causing the marine environment and I was horrified! Once I knew, it was easy to make more informed decisions about what I was buying to reduce my part in the pollution. Now I check the contents of cosmetics before I buy them and if they contain plastic then they’re not going in my shopping basket. Easy!

I’ve taken things a step further and I am now a PhD student at Plymouth University researching ‘The Sources and Fate of Plastic Pollution within the Marine Environment’.   I am passionate about providing the public with more information on plastic pollution’s origins, and its subsequent journey, future, and effects on the environment. Recently I have been extracting and quantifying the plastics used in top brand facial scrubs, and found the results very surprising.  Microplastics are known for being ingested by marine animals, transporting non-indigenous species to new locations, and generally making the sea into a ‘plastic soup’.  By looking at the amount, shape and size of the microplastics extracted, it helps to further identify the impacts they are having the marine environment. 

A SEM (scanning electron microscope) photo of a microbead used in facial scrubs

Unfortunately there are still many other ways the sea is polluted. Plastic bottles and carrier bags washing up on the beach and animals entangled in fishing lines are just two examples of the terrible images that spring to mind. Educating people on the ways that we pollute, very often unwittingly like I was, help us make the right lifestyle decisions for reducing our imprint and increasing our sustainability. If you’re not aware of the how we are contributing to pollution as a society then how are we expected to combat it?! This is the exact reason why I became a Sea Champion.

Myself and other Sea Champions have been spreading the knowledge about marine pollution to more people. We recently received training on how to deliver educational talks and workshops to schools and other organisations about the ocean and how to preserve it. Hearing the feedback from these talks has been fantastic, and it really shows how it just takes one person informing others to cause a ripple effect. Continuing to spread the word with fellow Sea Champions is something that I'm really looking forward to this year. The positive results and great feedback really proves how worthwhile this cause is and I'm excited to see how this project continues to grow."

Are you concerned about microplastics? Then head on over to our SCRUB IT OUT webpage to find out more and pledge to go microbead free!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Guest Post: Volunteer Emily tells us how she’s decided to take on the challenge of organising her own Beachwatch beach clean

One of my goals for this year is to gain as much conservation-related volunteer experience as I can. I want to expand my skills in all areas, including practical/field and academic, so that I can build a solid foundation for a career in conservation. One of the possibilities I looked at was volunteering for beach clean-ups in my local area, as a means of doing something vitally important for a good cause. During my online travels, I came across the Marine Conservation Society which is a charity based in the UK working towards the protection of our seas, shores and the wildlife that lives there.

“The tide of litter washing up on our shores is not just unpleasant to look at, it can harm and even kill some of our best-loved marine wildlife. Over 170 species including seabirds, turtles and whales have mistaken marine litter for food and actually eaten it, which in many cases has resulted in starvation, poisoning and ultimately a slow, painful death. Plastic packaging and discarded fishing nets also injure, entangle and drown some of Britain’s favourite marine animals, including seals and dolphins.”

They operate a programme entirely run by volunteers called the Beachwatch Survey that runs all over the country. The goal for each survey is to comb a 100m stretch of beach, record and collect each piece of litter found within that space and then send off the data to the MCS, who use it for analysis of the state of our beaches among other vital work. For my local beaches, there were no upcoming events scheduled when I looked, so I decided to register as an organiser and arrange my own clean-up. I'm quite excited as I've never taken part in a beach clean-up before, let alone organised one, and I am looking forward to the challenge of coordinating an event like this, thereby expanding my organisational skills and working towards a worthy cause (one of a great many that rely on volunteers). It's also a brilliant way to get some fresh, sea air after being stuck inside all Winter!

After liaising with Adur and Worthing Council and gaining permission to carry out an event, I have officially scheduled my first Beachwatch for Sunday 8th March. I'm holding it on Goring-by-Sea beach in Worthing, which is a beach I know reasonably well and is my nearest coastal area from where I am in Horsham. I am hoping to get a decent amount of volunteers to take part in the event so will be working hard to get the word out and about!

If you are in the West Sussex area and you're interested in taking part in this survey, you can find the event details here where you can register as a volunteer. It would be great to see as many people as possible helping out and enjoying a bit of fresh, sea air!

Emily is an artist, birdwatcher, volunteer and amateur conservationist. Read all about her conservation adventures over on her blog The Art of Nature or follow her on Twitter @ArtofNatureBlog

Good luck Emily, can’t wait to hear how it goes!