Basking Shark Map

Hebridean Island Beach Cleans – A Huge Success

Apr 15 2018

expedition beach clean isle of mull

Here at Basking Shark Scotland, we are passionate about wildlife conservation and the protection of the incredible natural assets around us. We are lucky enough to call the Hebrides our home and our office is the vast and powerful Atlantic Ocean. We often visit pristine beaches that are accessible only by boat. Unfortunately, due to the exposed location, we can come across huge amounts of plastic washed in from all over the world! In 2018 we made it our mission to do something about it.

We visited Waterfall Bay on the Isle of Mull on one of our wildlife tours over Easter and found this stunning coastline covered in plastic. We knew we had to do something about it. Within 10 days we had:

  • Crowdfunded to allow us to get that plastic off the beach!
  • Organised a crew of 16 amazing volunteers, well prepared with warm clothes & sturdy footwear and ready for the task ahead
  • Planned the trip – the weather conditions can be so challenging with difficult landing and anchoring. Our experienced skippers, Shane & Cameron, were able to make the best of the conditions to get the job done.
  • Prepared the boats – we needed to use fast RIBS to transport the volunteers to the remote locations and bring all of the rubbish back
  • Prepared the dinghy – we needed two reliable dinghy to get the volunteers safely from the boat to the beach and back again with the rubbish
  • Arranged vehicles on the mainland – two vans were required to pick up and transport the plastic waste to the local recycling centre so that it could be disposed of safely.
  • Sought permission from Argyll & Bute Council to allow us to take the rubbish to the recycling centre. They were a great help and also provided a van.
  • Sourced the clean-up equipment – big thanks to Jewsons Oban for donating the 1 tonne bags!

The offshore location, which is exposed to the Atlantic, makes it a truly stunning place to visit but only in the right weather. We left Oban around 8am, to make the 50km journey along the south coast of Mull to the remote bay. The wind had picked up and was a little stronger than was forecast but this proved to be no problem for the fast and comfortable Redbay RIBs. Cearban Beag had been stripped to give the most deck space and Rannoch transported our volunteer beach cleaners.

Upon arrival our fears about the swell were true but it looked do-able! A few 1m swells nearly caught us out but we safely landed everyone on the rocks and they clambered onto the beach. Then the real hard work started as we piled up, bagged, and sorted out all of the plastic over the next few hours. The wind and swell made it really tricky to get it all back to the boat on the dinghy. We tried dragging the bags along the rocks and landing there but this took too much time and effort. Our Head Guide Luke then donned his drysuit and waded out through the waves as we zoomed in with the dinghy. This really saved the day and allowed us to get everything off in a decent time.

We soon filled Cearban Beag and loaded Rannoch until we got to the point where we could take no more.

Once we returned to Oban the debris was sorted and around two-thirds of it was recycled rather than put into landfill which is fantastic!

Our only issue was that we could not bring everything back in one go due to the vast quantity which was on the beach. We then raised some extra cash to fund a second hit the following year which allowed us to go back for the rest. We reckon we cleared off about 53m3  from the beach.

Many thanks go to everyone who donated to the project. We also want to say a huge thank you to Cameron from Coastal Connection for allowing Rannoch to be used, Janie & Ross for their Terracycle help and their help on the day. Massive thanks also goes to our amazing volunteers Jos, Kyle, Gary, Catriona, Stuart, Andrew, Maggie, Sarah & Isla who made this amazing clean-up happen!

You can read more in the Press & Journal article written about the clean-up.

Although this was a huge effort, it really was a drop in the ocean; we have spotted a number of beaches on our travels that we can organise similar events for. Covid kicked our plans into touch so we concentrated on smaller, more local projects over the past few years, however, there are plenty more beaches that need our help. We are looking at extending our funding to do cleans-ups all over our exposed island beaches. See our other beach clean here on the Isle of Kerrera.

Get in touch if keen to volunteer to be an expedition beach cleaner and if you can help out with a small donation for the cause see here.

Ready to join us on an adventure?