Expedition Beach Clean 2019
Our spring expedition was a huge success with 16 beaches cleaned around Oban and Isle of Kerrera coastline.
Following our huge expedition beach clean last year on the Isle of Mull (see blog from that here) we wanted to return to some beaches and visit others along the Oban coastline too. The sad thing is there are LOTS of beaches around the Argyll coastline that need this amount of effort. With such a rise in plastic over the years and us being Atlantic facing and powered by the gulf stream, we're on the front line for flotsam washing up. Add to this a busy fishing and aquaculture industry and it becomes a real issue. Our area has fantastic natural assets from landscape, geology and stunning coastlines. However more importantly it is a haven for wildlife, having many species of marine mammals, basking sharks, seabirds and eagles along with all the underwater life that folk don't normally see. We need to ensure our coastline and oceans are kept in good condition so our amazing marine life can thrive!
Last time we crowdfunded to cover the costs of organising our Mull clean up, but thanks to Sea Changers, Shane was able to apply for funding to allow us to organise a much bigger event this year! We had big plans and thanks to the Cumbria Canoeists, Mike Sunderland was able to organise a hardy group of Sea Kayakers to act as our advanced clean up squad, accessing many hard to reach beaches as they could. Over our organised dates we concentrated on the exposed shorelines to the south of Oban, between Gallanach & Loch Feochan. Then on the South, South West and North shores of the Isle of Kerrera. Although there are some beaches very close to Oban (and therefore larger population and working harbour) that require regular cleaning, this is attended to by many local clean up groups who do a fantastic job. The best use of our skills is in remote areas where you can't easily get to on foot! These are areas that are normally neglected and exposed shores.
To do the cleans we clear the deck of our Redbay RIB which normally either has a seat or bottle rack for diving. Then take our dingy to land people ashore and get the cleaned up material off the shore quickly and easily (well sometimes). Our clean up attracted 20 hardy cleaners, and 7 kayakers, this was in addition to the Calmac (John) and Argyll & Bute Council staff who also assisted in the shore based side of things. Janie Steele, a local Oban environmentalist has also been amazing with us on all of the cleans and getting things organised on the shore based side of things! We also had some help from the SCRAPbook project with Sally helping out on one of the days and their pilots sending us pictures of the beaches to give us some intel of the worst spots. So thanks to all the team that came together to make such a huge difference to our coastline! Based on the volume we estimate that it was around 17m3 of debris we collected - which is an awesomely huge amount to collect!
During the cleans we were surprised how much wildlife we saw, lots of black guilliemots, a couple of white-tailed sea eagles and even a small pod of bottlenose dolphins in Oban harbour. This sighting was rare given the noise and traffic in the harbour - perhaps they were coming over to say thanks!!! Great for our volunteers to get this reward for their hard work.
What's next! Well, you may have read in the previous blog that we couldn't get everything off the beach on the Isle of Mull, we tried to go back but the swell was too big. We need to wait for a better weather window to do that. However there are a numerous of other beaches we could make a difference! We're considering two approaches;
1) Crowdfunding - raising money to cover expenses to go clean the beaches. Made up of boat costs, fuel, more bags and replace any worn out tools. We have a good network locally to help and also dispose properly of the beach cleaned material so all we need is the time and money to get out there (also the weather but can't do much about that). Our crowdfund worked well last time but is reliant on the generosity of the public to help!
2) Beach cleaning holidays!? This was discussed at length with a lot of people interested in visiting the area but doing a trip here with a difference. If a bunch of people were interested we could split the costs down and that way the costs are covered and beaches get cleaned! So we might explore this option, either for purely beach cleaning, or perhaps combining with wildlife trips too.