Stories

Dublin Bay Christmas Relay

Seastainability, Patrick Jackson and a handful of volunteers joined Flossie and the Beach Cleaners for an early start to launch the begining of the Dublin Bay X-mas Relay. We had a small slot as Flossie made her journey around the bay but collected 6 very full bags of debris which was made up of mostly plastic litter and sanitary waste. It was so wonderful to connect with fellow beach cleaners around Dublin Bay!


Zombie Beach Combers

Seastainability and Picker Pals joined forces once more for a spookie Zombie themed beach clean. The Clean Coasts-supported beach clean took place on October 27th, 2019 at Sutton Creek, Dublin 13 from 2-4pm.

It was a great success, attended by somewhere between 90 and 100 people. The beach clean was themed around Halloween and fun for all generations but was particularly marked by the number of children present. At least half the people on the beach were under the age of 12, some of whom came in face paint and other costumes.

The clean-up was publicised widely in the community through local clubs and personal contacts as well as the Seastainability mailing list of people who have participated in previous clean-ups. It was taken up by the Sea Scouts and Mafikeng Scouts many of whom came to the event. There were also members of Sutton and Howth Sailing Clubs, keen to give back to the ocean at the end of their sailing season.

A particular focus on straws and bottle lids/caps added an educational element to the event. These were collected separately and goodie bags given to the children who found the most of them. The clean-up was supported by local school children from the Burrow National School who are involved in the Picker Pals project. They have been litter-picking in the area on a weekly basis and this clean-up was a part of that initiative.

Local businesses including Gallagher Quigley and SuperValu Sutton helped the project and provided snacks and equipment. Support was also received by Fingal County Council who provided kit and removed the collected debris. Howth Tidy Towns and Pathways groups also lent equipment. The beach clean was well organised with the help of Nina Morrison, an intern who came from the UK and worked on the project for the week before the event, particularly working on getting the work out on social media.

Pre-assessment was undertaken and a sharps box and first aid kit were provided as well as hi-viz vests, gloves and picker-uppers.  These were distributed in an orderly manner from the long tables lent to the group by the local St. Fintan’s Church who have always been supportive. All participants were briefed on safety as they signed in. The event was run in coordination with the Dublin Bay Biosphere event on Dollymount across the creek and it was inspiring to feel that the whole stretch of coast from the North Wall of Dublin Port to the Sutton Martello tower were simultaneously getting TLC.  

The picking was fairly challenging – lots of small pieces rather than the easier-to-pick larger items. In all, 17 full bags of debris – largely micro plastics but also some larger items and a number of tyres were removed from the beach. The estimated weight of the haul was about 300kg, not bad for two hours. Actually, the bag count was over 40 but careful rationalisation meant we could save over 20 bags for future use.

This is the fifth clean-up organised by this group over the past three years at this much littered spot. The Cloak of Howth was displayed drawing attention to the sort of items being washed up on Howth beaches, fascinating the children. The initiative was supported by a broad cross section of the community and thanks to the lovely weather went off brilliantly. The organisers have agreed that this beach clean had all the elements of beach clean heaven! Teamwork, thorough preparation, fun, multi-generations, loads of kids and SUNSHINE!!!


Ireland’s Eye Beach Clean up

Following our very successful beach clean-up of Carraigeen Bay on Ireland’s Eye in 2018, Clean Coasts together with the Discovery Programme coordinated a beach clean-up on August 17 2019, in timing with Heritage Week.

The day offered so much more than just ridding Carraigeen Bay and the East Beach of 15 full bags of debris, which we estimated as 100 kg in weight. Key speakers from CHERISH (Climate, Heritage and Environments of Reefs, Islands and Headlands) enlightened the group about the archaeology and geology of Ireland’s Eye along with the sobering impact that increased storminess and climate change is having on our treasured coastal heritage. We studied the stone that made up the Martello Tower and St. Nessan’s Church and learned about the Island’s ancient Cambrian quartzite rock formation on the cliff side. As always, we gorged a picnic post clean-up, some of the brave took a chilly dip and lastly we trekked to the summit to take in all we had learned, experienced and achieved on that wonderful day.

Our findings from the clean-up were that Carraigeen Bay and the shingle beach on the West of the island was quite littered with marine debris but on a positive note the pollution was greatly reduced compared to the same time last year. Much of the pollution found was fishing equipment such as ropes, net and tackle. The second most common finding was sanitary waste including tampons, tampon packaging, sanitary towels and cleansing wipes. There were also a few strange finds like barbie heads and a giant rubber Toucan! A new discovery I made was micro plastic nurdles up inland from the West Beach, which must have found their way during a stormy high tide. There were a significant number of nurdles matted into the grassy vegetation and with the ferry soon to depart I unfortunately couldn’t rid the spill of the tiny plastic pellets in the short amount of time I had.

Most devastatingly the wrecked pontoon is still washed ashore Carraigeen Bay and it’s polystyrene core is eroding now more than ever. We found much polystyrene balls scattered among the sand, marram grass, and disturbingly in burrowed nests. These nests could have been rat or puffin nests so we couldn’t disturb them, however the level of white plastic puffs which had been dragged into the hollow was grim. We have repeatedly offered help and man power to remove this pontoon since 2018 but unfortunately to no avail. There is hope still, working together with Clean Coasts, Fingal County Council and the owner we hope to be able to break apart this plastic leaching wreck and take it back to the mainland for disposal.

On studying a crumbled sample I brought back from the pontoon, the cement layer is embedded with plastic fibre shards, which are now a common aggregate in cement. Many praise the up-cying of plastic waste into cement construction however few are seeing the impact that redundant and disused cement blocks is having in our environment. The use of such materials in construction is getting more widespread attention following the outrage of the plastic shards spill on Dún Laoghaire and Sandycove Beach by contractor SIAC/Mantovani Group during the construction of the Dún Laoghaire baths. Swift recovery of such eroding materials is key and we will continue our demand to have this pontoon removed, it won’t be an easy task breaking up the pontoon and ferrying its load back to Howth Harbour, but we have many volunteers keen to help.


Ireland’s Eye Beach Clean up

Seastainability together with Clean Coasts coordinated a specialised clean-up of Ireland’s Eye off the fishing village of Howth on August 26, 2018: Ken of Ireland’s Eye Ferries offered his support by ferrying 23 volunteers to the SPA and SAC site to undertake the masse clean up.

It is estimated that half a tonne of marine litter was removed from the Island. The volunteers were not only locals, but many came from the greater Dublin area. On arrival at the Island, David Hughes gave the group a brief history of Ireland’s Eye and Tara Adcock of Birdwatch Ireland enlightened the group of the many types of seabirds dwelling on the Island.

Looking out at this beautiful, uninhabited Island from Howth you would never imagine the level of litter and marine debris matted into the sand and rock. It’s an interesting area to survey since the level of foot fall is relatively low compared to Howth Village. No one group is responsible for cleaning or preserving Ireland’s Eye so the level of debris we found on our pre-assessment was alarming. This Island is a habitat for seabirds and seals, yet sadly it has become a landing area for wandering marine litter and fishing equipment.

The Seastainability volunteers cleared an accumulation of plastic litter, lengths of tangled fishing ropes, fishing material, textiles, aluminium cans and glass. 23 volunteers trekked 70 bags of debris across the Island where it was loaded onto two ferry boats and brought back to Howth Harbour.

Ireland’s Eye Ferry owner, Ken Doyle commented;

Ireland’s Eye Ferries were delighted to facilitate the volunteers from Seastainability and Clean Coasts. Ireland’s Eye is a beautiful amenity so close to the city and keeping it clean is in the best interests of all who use it, wildlife and human. Well done to all for their efforts today. We will continue to encourage all visitors to take their rubbish home with them.

Clean Coasts Coastal Programme Officer, Richard Curtin said;

Clean Coasts were delighted to be involved with this clean-up of Ireland’s Eye which is one of the most beautiful sites on the Dublin Coastline. The volunteers braved the wet conditions and did trojan work to remove such a large quantity of rubbish. Each year millions of tonnes of marine litter enter our seas and oceans, resulting in environmental, economic, health and aesthetic challenges. Clean-ups such as this help in reversing these trends.

A great sense of community and collaboration was felt by all involved. The Beshoffs Market Cafe, welcomed the volunteers to the West Pier with a rewarding hot drink refreshment and newly appointed Harbour Master, Harry Mc Loughlin, arranged the disposal of the collected debris.

The Seastainability team are very much looking forward to move specialised clean-ups of this beautiful and unique site.

Plastic Oceans Web Series

November, 2018

The Riptide Movement’s Plastic Oceans is a three-part web series developed by Clean Coasts with the aim to raise awareness, through documentary, of the polluting effect that marine plastic has on our marine environment

The Riptide Movement meet with Seastainability to talk nurdles and microplastic pollution. Check out episode 2 featuring Rebecca meeting with Gerry and JPR on Burrow Beach in Sutton.

Trail ‘R’ Trash Take 2

16th September 2018

Another whirlwind, action packed day in Sligo for take 2 of Trail’R’Trash. The group started the day kayaking from Milk harbour to Dernish Island and collecting 20 bags of rubbish, which was followed by another 13km trail run plogging event on Streedagh beach and to close the day a team horse trekked Trawluath beach clearing a more remote stretch of coastline.

Trail ‘R’ Trash

1st June 2018

Well that was fun! This trail blazing journey got started with a very hairy 200+km road trip which saw Rebecca arriving in Strandhill just about in time to join Róisín and the guys at Havin’a Laugh charity with all the necessary clean up kit. The Fitness 4 All instructors got the blood pumping of 25 volunteers with a warm-up stretch before we set out on the 13 km trail. In just under two hours the plogging group cleared 20 Bags over 1 square km of forest area. Northwest Adventure Tours lead the joggers through the beach and forest trail while local surfer and volunteer, Pete, joined us at points along the road so we could off-load bags and debris into his van.

The feel-good factor of doing your part for the environment was enhanced with the added element for raising funds for Havin’a Laugh charity and getting some serious cardio exercise! The Draft House Bar & Grill sponsored our group with a BBQ of hotdogs, beef-burgers and veggie burgers and the night when from there!

St Anne’s Park Clean Up

29th December 2017

As we drew closer to the end of the year the Seastainability team would be back in their same hometown for the Christmas holidays. Since the summer we had rolled out several nurdle hunts, four beach cleans, one estuary clean and individually practiced the 2 minute beach clean ethos.

To celebrate the end of the year and collaborate with a neighbouring community we decided to move slightly inland from the coast to tackle pollution in St Anne’s Park. Unlike coastal pollution, which lands on beaches from many sources including boats, drains and oceans, litter in a common recreational area is unfortunately solely dropped by individuals misusing the park.

Collaborating with Dublin City Council, Seastainability and 43 volunteers tackled the park and collected 4 trailer loads of rubbish between them. The most common items found were disposable coffee cups, alcohol cans and bottles, food wrappers, clothing and toys. Many of the volunteers also spotted illegal dumping, especially along streams and in the pond.

Amazingly (and this topic is a campaign in itself) on every common walking route we take, be it coastal or inland, we are constantly finding dog poo in little plastic bags! We have discussed this many times between ourselves and we still can’t rationalise the thinking behind why someone would go to the trouble of collecting dog dirt in a bag only to drop it on the ground again. Is it perhaps misconceived that these nappy sacks are biodegradable? Are people too lazy or ashamed to carry the bag if they can’t find a bin within a few yards? Do people think that this type of trash cannot be put in the regular street bins or do they simply think that someone else will dispose of it? I wonder do these dog owners have any idea of the adverse harm this plastic pollution is having on the environment?

The clean up was a major success and many of the volunteers received praise and support from passers by. The volume of pollution collected in just two hours was a sobering reminder of societies relationship with the natural world. People may say that pollution is the council’s issue or the responsibility of establishments or even that of the packaging manufacturer. This beautiful park is a common area solely used by individuals and there is no excuse for littering. There are many bins dotted around the park and in this day and age every member of society is aware of the negative effects of littering. Still we wonder why individuals do it. Nearly every day during our daily commute we witness trash being tossed on railway tracks or out the car window. The litter vigilante burns helplessly within us when we witness such antisocial behaviour.

We cannot express the uplifting feeling we get when large numbers of our friends, family and members of our community turn out to work alongside oneanother to tackle local pollution.

First and foremost we would like to thank all of the volunteers for their hard work on the cold and blustery morning that was 29/12/17. Many thanks to Dublin City Council for their support and service during the day and thank you to the charming Olives Room Café at the Red Stables for serving us warming drinks at the end of the afternoon which were kindly sponsored by DCC.


Sutton Creek Beach Clean: Pre-Assessment

November 2017

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We are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of Dublin, surrounded by the sea and beaches on both sides! Unfortunately both beaches in Sutton are badly affected by litter and pollution, especially Sutton Creek. Currents and tides wash the cities rubbish up on our shores on a massive scale, and it’s getting worse all the time!! Have a look at some of the images from our beach clean pre-assessment. We will be out doing a beach clean on Saturday morning, 11th November with Patrick Jackson and Clean Coasts at 11am to try tackle the problem. Please join if you are free and want to get involved in a community driven effort to clean up our local environment.


BIG BEACH CLEAN 2017

11th June 2017

BEACH CLEAN TEAM (1)

Cleaning up our natural environment has never been more imperative. ‘Green is the new black’ and civic action is gaining huge popularity and recognition on social media. Images of trash collected by individuals are flooding the likes of Twitter and Instagram platforms. The movement has grown globally with beach lovers following such ethos’s as the ‘2 minute beach clean’, ‘just grab bits’ and ‘take 3 for the sea’.

Organised beach cleans are a wonderful incentive to bring community together and to discover more about current environmental issues.

Earlier this month, we organised a local beach clean as part of the An Taisce Clean Coasts Big Beach Clean. The week ran from June 2nd – the 11th with groups around the country tackling our coastal pollution issue.

Weather conditions had been stormy the week before with high tides changing the usual layout of the beach. On an average day you could fill several sacks of bulky litter but on this particular day we were pleased to see the pollution was sparse and overall the beach looked clear. One of the volunteers had been collecting small shells when she noticed tiny round beads scattered on the sand. This was my first sighting of plastic nurdles and it had a sobering effect on me. I had seen images of this kind of pollution before but I never imaged it reaching our small shoreline. Nurdles are tiny pre-industrial pellets used to manufacture plastic products such as toys, synthetic fabrics or plastic packaging. This type of plastic pollution had most likely come from a cargo ship spill out at sea. The inorganic beads were nearly invisible, blending in amongst the sand and shells.  These pellets can easily be mistaken for micro organisms which are tiny enough to be ingested by small fish such as krill. The plastic then enters the food chain via sea birds and larger marine mammals and finally contaminates our food source. The rate at which species are disappearing in our ecosystems due to pollution is accelerating.

Regular beach cleans and reducing the amount of plastic we consume is a positive action but it is a short term solution to a major problem. The changes we make over the next decade are imperative to conserving our oceans. If we really want to make a difference to stop plastic pollution then legislation MUST be changed with regards to single use plastic. Big plastic manufacturing companies are responsible for the magnitude of plastics in our oceans and landfill. We as consumers need to challenge these producers to take more responsibility to offer sustainable products. Governments need to implement long term solutions to recycle or reuse these single use products. I would welcome an additional tax on single use plastic products to highlight that convenience consumables have grave effects on our environment. We here at Seastainability have challenged our government but so far their response has been unsatisfactory with politicians claiming we already have a successful recycling system.

We need to demand a deposit and returns system and an outright ban on plastic bags and cutlery. We have a choice to change our consumer habits and we have a voice to demand better solutions. There is no planet B and we cannot wait for this problem to be inherited by the next generation.


Malahide Estuary Survey

January 2017, Siobhan Murphy

On my recent visit to Malahide Estuary in Dublin I took some photographs and did some watercolour paintings on the flora and fauna in the area.  The inner Broadmeadow estuary  has been designated a sensitive area of tidal waters under national regulations (S.I. 254 of 2001 and S.I. 440 of 2004).  I did my field work both at the inner Broadmeadow estuary and beyond the marina at the mouth of the estuary.

I wanted to do a site survey of the estuary and use my findings as inspiration for my paintings and artwork and also see how climate change is actually affecting the local environment.

My camera, it’s old but it has travelled to far flung places! A journal and sketchbook paper, for my notes and quick drawings. My thermal mug, 2b pencil, rubber, schmincke Horadam watecolours and fine line pens, for defining my paintings.

I usually paint indoors on the floor but sometimes I sketch outside, when the weather is good.  However, it is generally cold and wet in Ireland so I tend to keep moving rather than hang around sketching, I take photos and sometimes little samples, making sure not to damage the habitat or disturb the inhabitants in anyway.

Having a camera meant I could take photos of the landscape. A photo acts like a frame, helping isolate elements of the scene and can be used as a reference for painting later.  Here I used watercolours and pen to detail the elements of the landscape and illustrate the white horse waves at the mouth of the estuary.

Green algae Enteromorpha – This is a quick painting that I did to capture the movement of the water.  Its good to remember that you don’t have to recreate the exact photograph just the energy of the scene.  Playing around with colours and brightening or darkening your painting palette adds interest and variation.

Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias linnaeus) This is a plant found in coastal regions, and in sand, shingle and on cliffs. It flowers in the period July to October, it is perennial and native to Ireland. Its features are: Small yellow-green flowers in up to six rayed umbels. Three-lobed, smooth seed capsules. Fleshy, hairless oval leaves, which are un-toothed and blunt. It usually has several erect stems containing white latex. It can vary in height 20-40cm.

Sea Beet (Beta Vulgaris ssp maritma). The Sea Beet is a coastal plant found on rocks but it also grows on sand and shingle beaches and also in sea walls and on waste ground.  It can sometimes be carried inland and seed. It’s flowering time is July to September, it is native to Ireland and perennial. Its features are: Shiny leaves which are dark green in colour. Triangular shaped leaves that are un-toothed. Fleshy stems that may contain a red tinge. Wide covering of branched growth up to 100cm. Tiny green, sometimes reddish petal-less flowers which are contained in narrow leafy spikes.

If you want to start studying and documenting a specific location, the first thing to do is to get a map of the area, then gather the kit I describe. Then I use references key charts to identify different plant and animal species that are specific to the area.

Getting familiar with the plants, birds and animals of the habitat is very important when beginning to monitor an area.

You can monitor plastic and rubbish in the general estuary area. A key area to monitor is the point source run offs into the water source.  These are pipes or water streams that usually take surface water into the sea, they can become polluted and blocked. You might notice a build up of rubbish, a change in colouration of the rock or earth around the pipe and water exiting with a muddied, cloudy possibly, grey, brown or green appearance which can be an indication of pollution.  Once documented, this is something that can be reported to the local authorities.  It is really important to note that some areas such as pipes or boulder rocks can be prone to rats. Humans are at risk of contracting Wheil’s disease if they were to handle rubbish or pollution which was contaminated. Only professional authorities with protective clothing an equipment should tackle clearing pollution here, but you  can contact your local authorities with your findings. Moss or green lichen is not necessarily a sign of pollution but excess amounts of it with the presence of rubbish and discoloured water would be an issue. It’s more of an issue when it actually grows on the water, this is the type of algae that causes loss of sunlight as opposed to the lichen I’ve found growing on the rocks pictured which are part of a healthy estuary eco-system.

In terms of plant abundance this would be something people could measure over time if they use a quadrant, which is square 1m *1m  made of wood or plastic. You throw this out over the area of the estuary (it can be used in a variety of habitats to count plant species, in various locations). Using a sample of the plants in an area, it is possible to compare over time how the plant life is effected by pollution and climate change. 

Like water testing, where invertebrates can be used to determine the health of the water, plants are part of the process for defining Special Areas of Protection (SPA).  Their level of abundance can be used to determine the health and wellbeing of a habitat, which we can measure using the quadrat tool.  

For estuaries I reference both the ‘The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland 2013’ and also ‘A Guide to Habitats in Ireland’ to determine the definitions of the different marine habitats.  ‘A Guide to Habitats in Ireland’ indicates that the tidal area of the river mouth or estuary should be characterised by the marine littoral or sublittoral Category. In this case the estuary has, the habitat Shingle and Gravel Banks CB1, Marram Dunes CD2, Dune Slacks CD5.

Climate change and pollution are intrinsically connected. Measuring rain levels, recording storm surges, monitoring runoff, plastic pollution and also plant abundance are all ways we can see how climate change is affecting the habitat. It’s about data collecting over time and monitoring subtle changes. However, finding pollution sources, noticing polluted water bodies and recording plants that are in trouble is very important and these things can be reported to the local authorities immediately.

Siobhan Murphy.

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