In the wake of the winter storms which have been battering the UK Surfers Against Sewage respond to resulting litter with 150 Big Spring Beach Cleans.
Yet another dense, multi-coloured layer of marine litter had been deposited by the receding tide, covering the beach from end to end, as far as the eye could see. Cotton bud sticks, shipping crates, carrier bags, water bottles, fishing netting, cigarette butts, mermaid’s tears – the vast majority of it plastics. It was as if the oft-quoted 46,000 items of plastic per square kilometre of ocean had reared up into terrifying and toxic sets, and smashed ashore, a distress signal from Mother Nature herself. Send for help!
The storms that have swept relentlessly in from the Atlantic this January will go down as some of the most devastating in UK history and the severe flooding, extreme coastal erosion and damage to people’s property will be well documented.
However with beaches from the Isle of Wight to Thurso resembling the catastrophic scenes left by tornadoes or hurricanes these storms have also brought with them a new and horrifying understanding of the true scale of the marine litter crisis that we are facing, a crisis that is arguably one of the biggest global environmental catastrophes of our times and, alongside climate change, dwarfs many of the issues we work on in terms of its complexity.
Surfers Against Sewage are more active than ever before in responding to the marine litter crisis through our innovative & award-winning campaigns and the imminent announcement of an ambitious 5-year action plan. A plan that will include; the 2014 publication of a ground-breaking Marine Litter Report, exploring the scale and causes of the marine litter crisis and the announcement of SAS’s 2020 marine litter reduction targets.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish exactly who the good and the bad guys are in this marine litter tragedy, an issue that often frustrates campaign efforts. Marine litter isn’t just an unsightly and hazardous mess of brightly coloured objects that we have to hop over on a dawn session with friends at a favourite winter surf spot. It’s far more serious and something the world is only just waking up to. Not only is Marine litter poisoning our oceans and harming marine life, it’s a vector for toxins that will, ultimately, end up in our bodies.
It is thought that marine litter causes a reduction in fish and marine mammal populations through higher mortality rates from wounds caused by litter, starvation due to blockages in the digestive systems and entanglement, and impaired reproductive capacity due to the cumulative effects of toxins such as parabens. Micro-plastics in particular concentrate organic pollutants such as PCBs, enabling them to enter the food web and bio-accumulate, reaching levels of toxicity thousands of times higher than the water around them. Miniature toxic time bombs poised to enter the food chain and work their way up to humans.
Bad guys or not, if we’re honest with ourselves, we must concede that we are all part of the problem and, if that’s true, then we can all be part of the solution. So as well as calling for increased action from coastal businesses, beach managers, corporate behemoths, and local and national government, Surfers Against Sewage are calling for action from coastal communities and individuals, from YOU.
The Big Spring Beach Clean is an opportunity for coastal communities to tackle the marine litter crisis head on. So step forward, roll your sleeves up and volunteer to organise a Big Spring Beach Clean this March the 28th – 31st and answer Mother Nature’s call for Help!
Register your beach at firstname.lastname@example.org and then follow the simple step by step guide for Big Spring Beach Clean organisers HERE
Hugo Tagholm, SAS Executive Director says: “The marine litter crisis poses an unprecedented threat to the sustainability of our marine environments a threat that the world is only just waking up to. Since 1990, people across the UK have been joining SAS’s Big Spring Beach Clean and when 150 coastal communities unite to confront the marine litter crisis this March, we hope to turn that awakening into action”