Friday, 5 May 2017

Sea Champions take the MCS beach clean to Egypt!

MCS really is lucky to have such dedicated volunteers who are always going the extra mile to protect our seas. A wonderful example of this is Sea Champion Lucy Alfred who's passion for tackling marine litter inspired her to take the MCS beach clean to the coasts of Africa. Let's find out how she got on.

"Wetsuit: check. Fins: check. MCS bibs: check. Bikini: check Sun cream: check. Wait, what? MCS bibs? In my suitcase? Bound for a diving holiday in Egypt?

Yes, that’s right, I took time out of my Red Sea diving holiday to do a beach and reef clean. I even got a gang of other holiday makers to help me! Luckily they and our hosts Roots Red Sea and Pharaoh Dive Club didn’t need much persuading. As ocean-crazy divers, we’re all passionate about conserving the very thing that gives us so much pleasure. So, armed with some snazzy orange MCS bibs, line cutters and a lot of rubbish containers, we hit local dive site El Gasus one morning.

I and Roots volunteer Kirsty, organised two teams of volunteers. One team focused on the beach, while the others did some serious sub-sea cleaning.

With the sun on our backs the diving team descended into the depths of the pretty dive site. Heading north first we saw virtually no rubbish, due to the nature of the way the wind and currents move along the coast. We did spot a few lion fish and scorpion fish though – awesome!

Heading south, however, we were overwhelmed with litter. Strewn everywhere, it had been deposited on the reef by the southbound wind and current. Fishing line was choking soft and hard corals, plastic packaging floated amongst the copious jellyfish and plastic bottles were embedded in the sand.

While some items were easy to extricate, it was a delicate job unravelling the fishing line without damaging the reef. Indeed, some had been there so long, that corals and anemones had started to grow on or around it. We obviously left that well alone as Nature, after all, always tries to make the best of a bad situation!

We worked hard to remove as much as we could, hauling up bags laden with non-biodegradable material. The land-based team did an equally sterling job, collecting metres of abandoned rope, and other fishing-related litter.

Thankfully, Roots and Pharaoh Dive Club are set up for this sort of exercise. They regularly host marine biologists and conservation volunteers, who work hard to research and preserve the stunningly diverse local dive sites. They were really accommodating and helpful when it came to organising the session. Thank you to Roots, all the staff at Pharaoh Dive Club and the volunteers who assisted us. Special thanks also to Steve King and Ellie D’Silva for the photographs and videos of the event.

If you’d like support from MCS to organise something similar, either in the UK or abroad, be sure to get in touch with their Beachwatch Team. I couldn’t have done it without their help!"

Thanks Lucy, what a fab job! If you'd like to find out more about MCS's Beachwatch Programme and get involved in a beach clean near you then just visit our website.


Friday, 7 April 2017

Welcome Tara!

It’s all change in the Sea Champions Team for 2017. We said a sad farewell to Matt Barnes and Ed Santry who did fantastic things for the programme in the 5 years they were here and we are very excited to welcome two new Volunteer Managers. Kate Whitton will be looking after our Sea Champions in South East England and Tara Proud who is based up in Scotland. A HUGE welcome to both of them!

Tara has had a busy first couple of weeks getting to grips with all things Sea Championy and even managed to fit in a trip to the Isle of Skye to run some education workshops. Here she tells us a little bit about herself and how she got on:

“Hello! My name is Tara and I’ve just started at MCS as the Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager in Scotland. I am really pleased to be joining the team at MCS. For the last 5-years I have been working for RSPB in a variety of conservation roles; from developing and managing an international conservation programme for migratory birds to being a scientist on a 3-month expedition to the UK overseas territory Henderson Island in the south Pacific. In my free time I am a voluntary trainer for Capturing our Coast and I also volunteer with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). I have two Biology degrees (a BSc from Bristol Uni and an MSc from Oxford Uni) and I started out my conservation career working for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. For the last 18 months I’ve been living on the Isle of Skye and exploring the amazing coastlines of the Hebrides.

This is my first week at MCS and I have been working with Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell to teach school children on the Isle of Skye about the incredible marine species they have on their doorsteps and how they can help us to protect them. The event was part of the Marine Magic Day which is a joint event run by the RSPB, Marine Conservation Society and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.

A hundred excited children transformed the school hall into a bustling seabird colony with their voices. I closed my eyes and I could *almost* convince myself it was a sunny June day and I was on a clifftop with Kittiwakes wheeling around overhead catching up on the gossip with their loud 'kittiwaaaake' calls.

The kids were super engaged and keen to take action to help. Stuart the life-sized model leatherback turtle was very popular and really brought to life our messages about why we all need to use less plastic to help the marine environment.

It's been a fantastic first week with Marine Conservation Society and I am looking forward to the next one!”