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8 Jun 2019

Celebrating World Oceans Day

Written by Sarah Lawrence
Work Party 2, who took part in the beach clean.
Work Party 2, who took part in the beach clean.
Saturday 8 June is World Oceans Day. To highlight its importance, Sarah Lawrence (St Kilda Seabird and Marine Ranger) tells us about a recent beach clean undertaken by volunteers on St Kilda.

Hello from Hirta! Last week marked Volunteers’ Week and, in preparation to celebrate World Oceans Day, a beach clean seemed like the perfect activity for volunteers from Work Party 2 – one of our working groups here on St Kilda.

Work Party 2 clearing litter from the boulder beach in Village Bay.
Work Party 2 clearing litter from the boulder beach in Village Bay

Since 2006 we’ve held an annual beach clean on St Kilda, the results from which feed into the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) national database. Last year the MCS found an average of 600 pieces of litter per 100 metres of beach. Even out here on remote St Kilda we aren’t immune to the problem, as litter from far and wide finds its way into Village Bay and becomes wedged in the rocks of the boulder beach.

After several days of challenging weather, on Tuesday we set off – bin bags in hand – to clear as much as we could find.

An Atlantic puffin carrying a piece of plastic rope in its beak to the colony at Carn Mor
An Atlantic puffin bringing plastic rope back to the colony at Carn Mor

Of the 41.2kg we removed this year, most of the 622 items were small, with 147 pieces of expanding foam insulation being the most prolific: a relic still appearing 11 years after the Spinningdale trawler grounded in the bay.

Next up, we had 114 pieces of rope, which we were delighted to remove from the marine environment – even a small piece of rope can be fatal to wildlife. With nearly 1 million seabirds on St Kilda, this poses a real risk and unfortunately each year we see incidents of seabirds tangled in fishing gear.

Later in the day I paid a visit to our Carn Mor puffins, barely a mile from the beach, and came across a puffin carrying a small piece of rope back to the colony. Either it had heard we were cleaning up and wanted to help or, more likely, this plastic rope will be adorning the puffin’s burrow this season. We can only hope that a puffling won’t get wound up in it – a stark reminder of why we clean the beach!

A puffin returning to Carn Mor with fish for a recently hatched puffling
A puffin returning to Carn Mor with fish for a recently hatched puffling

A huge thank you to Work Party 2 for their enthusiasm and help to keep St Kilda clean. On this World Oceans Day, we can look out across the bay to Dùn knowing that our seabirds are that bit safer thanks to their hard work.

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