How Bad is Marine Litter? - Interview With Marine Biologist April Welsh
Our Autumn beach clean event in our local town of Folkestone is this weekend, so we wanted to find out a little more about the impacts of marine litter from a professional in the field.
We spoke to April Welsh, a marine biologist from Kent to pick her brains and get her thoughts on the issue.
April studied Marine Biology and Oceanography at The University of Plymouth in 2011. She grew up in the small town of Dymchurch, where her passion for Marine Biology grew from spending most of her childhood on the beach and amongst the rock pools.
Thanks for chatting to us April! Can you tell us a little bit about what you have been up to since studying Marine Biology in 2011?
Once I’d graduated in 2015, I worked as a Research Assistant and Wildlife Guide for a company called North58 in Findhorn, Scotland. I gathered environmental and species data, as well as taking customers Dolphin and Whale watching around the Moray Firth. It was an amazing job and I got to spend every day working along the beautiful Scottish coast. If you are ever near, I highly recommend going on a trip!”
“Currently I work as a Water Technician for a global project management, design and engineering company called Atkins. Broadly, my role involves maintaining water networks (clean and waste) through computer modelling and site surveys.”
“Ever since I graduated I have been raising awareness in Marine Conservation. It’s a particularly important issue for me.”
What is marine litter and how bad is it?
“Marine litter is a term for all types of man made material on or in the ocean that didn’t originate there. Therefore, it is difficult for scientists to fully determine the exact numbers. However, it is estimated that 150 million tonnes of marine litter are currently circulating within our oceans.” 1 (European Commission, 2017)
How does litter get into the sea?
“Marine litter enters the ocean through a variety of both land and ocean-based sources. Some of the main ones include:
- Domestic and Industrial waste water
- Discarded/lost fishing gear
- Illegal dumping by ships”
1 (European Commission, 2017)
What does this amount of litter mean to marine life? Have you ever witnessed the impacts?
“Apart from the hermit crabs that are using the party poppers for new homes, it’s not good news. Ingestion, entanglement and smothering, are some of the main harmful effects on marine wildlife.
Sadly, I have witnessed the effects. When I was working in Scotland I saw a Harbour Seal with an unknown material wrapped around its waist. It must have been causing great discomfort for the seal.”
Does this marine waste affect us humans?
“Like everything, what goes around comes around. Once ingested by smaller marine life, marine litter travels up the food chain, and as a species at the top of the food chain its inevitable.”
How do you feel about this astonishing amount of waste on our beaches and in our seas?
“Overwhelmed I guess is the best way to describe it. Like most people, it’s hard to know where to begin or if you’re making a difference. It’s upsetting to see how poorly we’ve treated our planet, and that’s only the stuff we can see on the surface!”
What advice would you give to everyone about keeping our beaches clean?
Reduce/Reuse/Recycle…. these simple steps can help dramatically reduce litter on our beaches at the source!”
How important do you think it is for companies to be environmentally friendly as possible and get involved in environmental activities?
“Extremely important, companies have a responsibility on reducing the impact of their products. Companies should keep pushing, even small changes can make a big difference.”
What we think
Even doing what seems like a small task helps reduce the amount of waste finding its way onto our seas and washed up on our beaches.
Not only does this marine litter affect marine life and the Eco-system, it’s also very expensive to clean our beaches and any public places where litter is dropped. So by getting involved when you can, becoming even more aware of disposing litter properly, and of the amount of single-use plastic you use, you can make a difference.
Autumn Beach Clean
Dirtbusters is a family run business. We produce professional cleaning products and we try to be as environmentally friendly as we can. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to set up a beach clean in our local area, so that we can give something back to the community and reduce the impact of the products we produce.
One of our passions as a family and as individuals, is the sea. It’s a place where we spend time escaping reality in the busy world. That’s also why the issue of waste, especially single-use plastic waste, on our beaches and in our seas, is especially important to us.
If you want to get involved, come along to the beach clean in Folkestone on Sunday 29th October if you are local to the area (see our Facebook event page here http://bit.ly/folkestonebeachclean ) . Or do your own mini beach clean or take steps to reduce the amount of waste, especially plastic waste in your everyday lives. Find out more from https://www.sas.org.uk/ about what you can do to help.