September 22nd, 2011 by Richard Lord
During a windy Saturday 17 September 2011 many volunteers, coordinated by the States of Guernsey Environment Department, participated in the Marine Conservation Society‘s Beachwatch Big Weekend by walking the Guernsey sea shore to collect litter.
The good news is that more Guernsey community groups, companies and individuals are regularly cleaning the Guernsey shore of litter. The increased frequency of collection means that Guernsey’s beaches and the rocky shore don’t accumulate a large amount of litter although the total amount of litter arriving on the shore each year may not be diminishing.
The litter of local terrestrial origin is composed mostly of food packaging and containers, and plastic bags and sheeting. There are always one or more cigarette lighters, and on sandy beaches there can be numerous cigarette ends.
When Guernsey experiences stronger winds, usually during the autumn and winter months, ocean borne debris dominates the composition of litter on the shore.
Ocean borne litter is both accidental and intentional. Crab pots get damaged by storms. They get ripped from their tether line, and wash-up on the shore in a mangled state. Other fishing gear litter is clearly intentional. Fishermen repair damaged nets at sea and in doing so cut-out short pieces of Nylon twine, which they throw overboard.
Based on previous Marine Conservation Society Beachwatch beach cleans the amount of litter collected on this occasion from the one hundred metre stretch of shore at Champ Rouget, Chouet on Guernsey’s north coast was very little. On previous occasions a dozen or more volunteers have struggled to collect all the litter and a medium-sized flatbed truck has been required to take the litter away.
On the afternoon of 17 September the total amount of litter fitted into one Gorilla tub. This stretch of shore could have been recently cleaned of litter.
Litter has a way of disguising itself on this pebble and sandy shore that has a large berm of seaweed on it. Each walk up and down the shore revealed more tiny pieces of litter such as plastic bottle tops and other pieces of hard plastic, fishing line, and small pieces of Polystyrene.
A novel item that has turned up on the shore in the last few years is a rubber ball with rope dog toy. What the dog doesn’t fetch the sea eventually brings forth. Whether this product causes harm to wildlife is unknown.
The best way to minimise our impact on the shore is to leave only footprints.