Surfers Against Sewage produce major report and campaign for tackling marine litter

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have produced an incisive and impressive report on the problem of marine litter, and a series of constructive and practical proposals for reducing the severe problem that marine litter now creates. To see their report as a large pdf document, click here. The summary in their report advises:

“Tackling this marine litter crisis; if not us, who? If not now, when? This report introduces marine litter as a ubiquitous problem; retracing the journey marine litter items take back from beaches and seabeds, through the hands of consumers, to the industries that manufacture the products, packaging and materials destined to be lost at sea.

Understanding the fundamental causes of marine litter is vital to ensure the measures and actions are effectively targeted at the most appropriate stakeholders. The true scale of the marine litter crisis is often daunting.

Internationally, an astounding 46,000 pieces of marine litter are estimated to be floating on every square mile of ocean and the 5 great ocean garbage patches now contain more plastic than planktonplankton Plankton is a generic term for a wide variety of the smallest yet most important organisms form that drift in our oceans. They can exist in larger forms of more than 20cm as the larval forms of jellyfish, squid, starfish, sea urchins, etc. and can be algae, bacterial or even viral down to as small as 0.2µm. They are nutrient and light dependent, and form the essential foodchain baseline for larger dependent aquatic lifeforms. Fish species rely on the density and distribution of zooplankton to coincide with first-feeding larvae for good survival of their larvae, which can otherwise starve. Man-made impacts such as dredging, dams on rivers, waste dumping, etc can severely affect zooplankton density and distribution, which can in turn strongly affect larval survival and thus breeding success and stock strength of fish species and the entire ecosystem. They also form the essential basis of CO2 take up in our seas ecosystem, hence Global Warming.. Closer to home, the UK’s geography exacerbates the problem as it sits directly in the path of huge oceanic currents and prevailing winds that drive marine litter towards our shores from thousands of miles of open ocean. However, before we act we must all understand and accept the scale of the problem.

The impacts reach from the deepest oceanic environment right into our own communities. Communicating the scale of the issue and the threats it presents is essential to motivate all stakeholders to take the necessary actions needed to deliver our vision of reducing beach litter by 50% by 2020.

This report is filled with fast and easy to adopt solutions for everyone For example: smoking bans on beaches, warnings relating to environmental impacts of packaging and tightening the discharge consents for the UK’s network of 31,000 combined sewer overflows.

These examples highlight how all sectors: the public, local and national Government and industries need to work towards a collective goal of reducing marine litter.

Surfers Against Sewage is not the only voice amongst NGOs calling for dramatic and urgent action to tackle marine litter. World Animal Protection, Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Seas At Risk are just a few examples of national organisations that have ambitious and impactful litter reduction campaigns.

Local organisations including Firth of Forth’s Great Nurdle Hunt and South Cornwall’s Rame Peninsula Beach Care are also great examples of effective community groups championing their local marine environments. But the time has come for all sectors; charities, Government, industry, academia and the public to work towards the challenging but achievable goals set within this report.

The benefits for the UK environment, coastal communities, the economy, ecosystem services and natural capital balance sheets are significant. But there are also direct and tangible benefits for the economy, communities, businesses and Governments.

To answer the question, if not us, who? There is nobody else. Action needs to be collective and inclusive. Together we can take the appropriate actions and measures needed to make a difference. So if not now, when? It is said there is an immeasurable distance between late and too late. It is not too late to act, the opportunity and need has never been greater than now.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is calling for European Member States to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in their waters by 2020. Measures and action to achieve GES need to be agreed by 2015, implemented in 2016 and will be reviewed in 2018. The UK’s proposed strategy for tackling marine litter and achieving GES has been severely criticized by the European Commission.

Without taking the necessary steps now to achieve GES we leave the UK exposed to fines and the need for even more drastic litter reduction measures between 2018-2020. However, if the country acts now, leading with ambitious and effective measures, striving to achieve a 50% reduction in beach litter by 2020, the UK will reap the greatest rewards for the environment, for coastal communities, the public and the economy.

Source: Surfers Against Sewage, 4th November 2014. For the full details, see:

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