Like any coastline the world over one thing is for sure, living in Cornwall and loving the beach and diving means you are never very far away from some kind of lost or discarded plastic. Either washed up on one of our beautiful beaches, floating on the surface of the sea or bouncing about on the sea bed. While much of this is fishing related there are also plenty of other items that come from other sources from plastic straws and popped deflated balloons to plastic bottles and polythene bags. We have all seen the horrific images flooding the internet of entangled, injured and often dead marine animals and with the recent showing of Sir David Attenboroughs’ Blue Planet II many more people are aware of the plastic pollution issue.
Here in Cornwall there is a whole community of Marine Conservation groups working together to help spread awareness and clean up the beaches. Most coastal towns also have Plastic Free Coastline initiatives supported by Surfers Against Sewage and lots of groups and organisations are signing upto the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition. I do think that as a county we are leading the way in the UK to making change happen. Just the other day I was in Tesco’s and we left all plastic packaging in-store as a demonstration against its overuse. This winter I have also been helping my good friend and work colleague Charlie on her Ocean Positive Paddle Mission, she is kayaking and SUPing to Cornish Coves and cleaning up beaches that are unreachable on land. As part of this we also did a beach clean and the children got to meet Steve Backshall (Deadly 60) and Helen Glover (Olymic Gold Rowing) who came to help out also. Steve is one of Oli’s heros!!
One of our main objectives while away is going to document plastic pollution on our trip. We want to clean beaches, trawl for micro plastics and snorkel/dive for debris. It would also be brilliant to engage local communities and we would like to go armed with tools to do this.
Our first tool is going to be Baby Legs! What is this you ask? Well the amazing Sue Sayer and her team at Cornwall Seal Group Reseach Trust have been successfully trialing a piece if kit here in Cornwall that trawls for microplastics on the sea surface. It is a low cost DIY piece of equipment that is growing in recognition as a successful method for collecting and identifying this unwelcome pollution. I have also gotten a little USB microscope to analyse the materials collected. Please take a look here for more information on this and even step by step instructions!!
Our second tool will be our cameras. We will clean beaches and any other areas blogging and posting on social media as we go. I also have a few local links so hopefully they will share our activity.
And thirdly we dish out information on local initiatives we discover along the way and international organisations such as Project Aware and Dive Against Debris and the Plastic Pollution Coalition. The kids would like to go into some local schools to talk about this also. I am hoping this will be a big part of their education also!!
My inspiration for this project is Claire Wallerstein, she runs Rame Peninsular Beach Care and is also a good friend. I am really looking forward to helping her out a bit more once we get back to Cawsand as that is where the group is based. They do lots of beach cleaning and public engagement all through the year, it would be great to get something like this going in French Polynesia as so far I haven’t discovered much – I might be looking in the wrong place though??