Guernsey Beach Cleans and Beachwatch 2009

September 1st, 2009 by Richard Lord

The States of Guernsey Environment Department co-ordinates and organises the Marine Conservation Society’s annual Beachwatch event. This year’s Beachwatch will be on the weekend of 19 and 20 September and it will mark the Marine Conservation Society’s 25th anniversary. The data collected forms the basis of an annual report that MCS uses to influence national and international legislation to protect the sea and marine life.

Guernsey Climate Action Network has adopted two Guernsey beaches to clean at least on a quarterly basis. These are Rocquaine Bay and Champ Rouget by the Chouet Tea Room.

Guernsey beach litter is from two principle sources. Seaborne litter comes from shipping, fishing boats and other countries. Large quantities of this litter can wash up after a storm.

During the warm summer months more of the litter found on Guernsey beaches comes from island residents and visitors. The schools are out and families enjoy Guernsey’s beautiful sandy beaches. They take meals and snacks onto the beach. Most people responsibly remove the packaging, bottles and cans they bring to the beach but a small minority don’t. Crisp packets, soda cans, plastic bottles, sweet wrappers, Styrofoam take-out food containers, plastic utensils and yoghurt containers make up a large part of the beach litter.

Besides litter being unsightly it poses a hazard to wildlife. It is the responsibility of all of us to pick-up litter and dispose of it in a suitable litter bin. Sometimes hazardous material washes up and this should be left for the authorities to dispose of safely. The Environment Department or the Fire Brigade should be contacted if a drum, which could contain hazardous chemicals, washes up on the shore.

This litter was collected from the top of Saline Beach on 22 July 2008 (©RLLord)

Litter left on the sea shore at La Valette bathing pools by residents during the summer (©RLLord)

The bathing pools by La Valette are popular with children and young families. Summer weekends produce the largest amount of litter, which is composed of snack packaging and juice bottles and cans. The kiosk owner makes a big effort to collect the litter that a few people leave behind.

Litter from the strandline in Saline Bay. Except for the Styrofoam take-out food container, this litter washes up from the sea. It is not local in origin (©RLLord)

This litter was embedded in the strand-line on a Guernsey west coast beach. It is primarily pieces of Nylon fishing net twine and rope and a fisherman’s glove, which has been washed on shore.  Styrofoam food packaging lasts months in the environment. The wind can blow it inland and the sea will shred it into small fragments.

A broken toy found in the strand-line on Vazon Beach on 23 March 2008 (©RLLord)

Beach litter can be an environmental hazard but it also provides intrigue. Where did this one-legged pirate, which was lying in the strand-line on Vazon beach, come from?

Winter storms frequently bring on shore damaged fishing gear. Fishermen can lose strings of crab pots and trawl gear. (©RLLord)

One of the most abundant components of litter on the Guernsey sea shore is pieces of Nylon net and Nylon rope from trawl gear (©RLLord)

Trawl nets snag on the sea bed. Fishermen will repair them. They will cut out the damaged part of the net, which is sometimes thrown overboard. Eventually these discarded pieces find their way on shore. Nylon netting, twine and fishing line is persistent in the environment. It is a hazard for marine birds. Many sea birds use it for nesting material. It can be fatal for their chicks. Regrettably, it is found in abundance on Guernsey beaches.

Gardeners find these strands of nylon twine useful for tying pea, bean, tomato, melon and other food crops to stakes and poles.

Anyone interested in getting involved in Beachwatch can contact the Environment Services Unit on env(at) or telephone 717200.

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