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13 November 2014

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You are in: Cornwall > Marine Watch > Marine Features > Litter on the Lizard

 A basking shark off the Cornish coast

Litter on the Lizard

Litter is a real problem in the marine environment, plastic being one of the worst offenders affecting the lives of many animals. There has been a growing campaign in Cornwall to reduce the number of these plastic bags which end up in the sea.

Plastic in the sea can be deadly to marine life. Over a million seabirds, a 100,000 sea mammals and an immeasurable number of fish are killed each year as a result of marine plastics.

Plastic debris can cause death by entanglement or ingestion and affects 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all turtle species and 43% of all mammal species.

BBC Radio Cornwall's Hannah Stacey has been down on the Lizard Peninsula, where the location makes it particularly susceptible to rubbish, to find out about the problems as well as also being one of the most challenging stretches of coastline notorious for ship wrecks.

Putting this into a more local perspective, here are some few statistics on beach rubbish from National Trust beaches around the Lizard.

Beach cleans / marine litter (young farmers volunteering to help the Trust clean one of its beaches) by NT

Beach cleans / marine litter volunteers by NT

The data was collected from the following Lizard beaches owned by the Trust; Loe Bar; Gunwalloe; Poldhu; Mullion; Kynance; Carleon Cove and Lowland Point.

The total amount of rubbish collected each year, equates to approximately 1000 bags or 15 large skip loads at a cost to the National Trust of almost £5000 per year, using the manpower of over 100 days work.

From the whole of Devon and Cornwall, the Trust collects enough rubbish to to fill enough skips which if stacked on top of each other, would be taller than the blackpool tower, or end to end would be as long as 3 Jumbo jets.

This may be from fishing and shipping industries discarding waste at sea, from dumped litter in coastal towns and cities, or left by day trippers on beaches and coastal paths. Litter and waste can either be blown into the sea or carried down through rivers and sewage outlets.

The problem when marine organisms ingest plastic is that it can cause blockage of their digestive system or perforation of internal organs. Ingested plastic is also likely to inhibit their food intake or decrease the storage capacity of the stomach, which can lead to starvation particularly on long migration routes.

Litter washes up regularly on the Lizard

Litter washes up regularly on the Lizard

Birds, seals, dolphins and other marine mammals are most vulnerable to entanglement from discarded fishing lines, nets and six pack yokes.

Birds in particular are highly susceptible to entanglement when diving for prey, as they can get caught in nets and lines, resulting in them dying from strangulation, drowning or starving to death.

Baring in mind plastics can take up to 500 years to biodegrade the problem is likely to continue.

There is however on a local level, a number of ways you can get involved in to publicise, raise awareness and help reduce the impact of this very worrying problem.

• Join and supporting organizations such as the Marine Conservation Society and coastal Wildlife Trusts.
• Promote and actively participate in beach cleaning events.
• Reuse and recycle carrier bags or better still don’t use them at all.
• Avoid goods that are heavily wrapped in plastic or in plastic containers.
• Buy in bulk and avoid convenience items.
• Write to supermarkets head offices explaining you would rather buy your produce without several layers of packaging and give the reasons why.
• Lobby your local MP.
• If you have any plastic containers or packaging, recycle them (plastic also takes up a lot of space in landfill sites).

last updated: 12/08/2008 at 15:10
created: 12/08/2008

You are in: Cornwall > Marine Watch > Marine Features > Litter on the Lizard

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