lockdown litter by nicky smedley, nemo ocean warrior - blog platform courtesy of the perfect pair dolphin trilogy
We all know the last year has been exhausting in more ways than one, and lots of people have used nature to relax, using the outdoors as a way of letting off steam. Sadly, even after the revelations of Blue Planet and the persistent headlines telling how nature is fighting a losing battle against humankind, people still think it’s ok to have little disregard for our natural environment - and the area struggling most is the oceans.
In summer of 2020 I became part of a team at my local dive site where I have been working with the resident course director Steve Ousby to bring more emphasis on conservation through Project Aware. He was already aware of my passion through a friend of mine and asked if I would be interested in linking up with them because our dive club (Hull Sub Aqua Club) was already pushing the Project Aware 'Dive against Debris'. So, we asked the question: how best could we look after our environment during these difficult times? With the ocean being our favourite place, a few of us decided to take action; take turns to keep our local beaches clean. Several members got involved, either cleaning beaches or cleaning their local environment. Thus, a start was made.
North Landing is my favourite place because, for me, it has sentimental meaning. When I was young, my family and I spent a great deal of time on caravan holidays there. So, spending a few hours there collecting litter (armed with a flask!) is a great way to relax - regardless of the weather. it’s a beautiful, tranquil bay, and if you get the weather, it’s a touch of paradise.
Mappleton Beach is also a nice stretch of beach, but when the tide comes in, you can’t reach it. However, visiting after the tide has retreated, you can usually bag up a plethora of litter. Much of the trash here looked like it had come from the ships and boats out at sea, the usual finds mostly being fishing ropes and wire. Did you know that roughly 46% of plastic found in the ocean consists of discarded fishing equipment? Yet, most people are totally unaware of this. Add to this plastic bottles, sweet and crisp wrappers and other nasties, and the list is endless. It's really sad to realise that most humans just don’t care. Then, there's the huge amount of litter that blows in from the surrounding inland areas.
Sadly, people still underestimate the power of the sea. We had some rough seas in January and February, spitting rubbish ashore, and in a particular part of the beach, the micro plastics had accumulated in the seaweed, the ocean angrily spitting it back out, saying: "Here - have your rubbish back!"
Withernsea Beach - So, over time, walking along this large stretch of beach, we found a mish-mash of litter from plastics to fishing gear, as well as dead animals, such as squid, birds and fish. People walk along our beaches to relax, exercise their dogs and admire the beauty of the ocean scenery. But they fail to hear the ocean's roar of "HELP ME! I'M IN TROUBLE!". Only if you truly appreciate how vital the oceans are to life on Earth will you understand the need to protect them.
After a lot of hard work, six beaches were cleaned in total. Again, most of our finds were fishing ropes and netting, along with the usual array of plastics. People need to remember that any animals getting trapped in netting out at sea have a slim chance of survival unless, of course, a boat comes along to free them. Plastic was our second biggest find, large and small pieces, plus the very tiny. Plastic bottles eventually break down into smaller and smaller pieces, and animals mistake them for food. Ingested plastic stays in the stomach, making animals feel full so that they stop eating and eventually starve to death.
Beaches cleaned were Bridlington, Barmston, Mappleton, Fraisthorpe, Withernsea and Flamborough. Sadly, within seconds of being on these beaches, visitors will come across the evidence of human disregard. We leave our mark everywhere, still not understanding the importance of nature to us all. It make me sad and annoyed, but I know if I pursue my rubbish-collecting quest, some good will be done. Remember, it is our duty to protect and educate the next generation.
As you will realize, I do it because it’s something I care deeply about. I understand nature's value and importance. People must be made to understand that we are ALL animals; all part of one big eco-system. We humans are not at the top of the tree, but are an integral part of it. We are no less and no more important than any of the other species that share our planet - something people need to understand. My advice is to keep doing your bit, share your ideas and passions, and even if it matters to you and no-one else, don’t let the doubters change your point of view. We are living in a confusing and fragile world - a world that a minority doesn’t want changed. However, the majority DOES want change, and there's the difference.
I want to thank all my diving friends and family for their fantastic help and support - in particular Jakkie Dainty and Steve Ousby. We all need people to lean on sometimes.
The oceans are an amazing part of our Earth: a sanctuary and a place to love - and a blessing for which we should all be truly grateful. I know I am.
Thankyou for reading