Beach litter putting wildlife at risk

Large amounts of litterhave been spotted on the shores near Beachy Head
Large amounts of litterhave been spotted on the shores near Beachy Head
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Marine wildlife in Eastbourne could be at risk as recent research show beach litter is spiralling out of control.

A study by the Marine Conservation Society revealed an increase in the amount of rubbish on the shores, with the number of wet wipes washing up on UK beaches increasing by more than 50 per cent.

This is a man-made problem. Every piece of litter has an owner and we all need to take responsibility to not drop litter in the first place

Emma Snowden

The news follows a report from the society in 2009 that claimed beach litter was at its highest recorded level ever, with public litter accounting for nearly 40 per cent of it.

Volunteers recorded 385,659 individual pieces of rubbish – equivalent to two pieces per metre.

Emma Snowden, MCS litter projects coordinator, said, “Whether you live near the coast or miles inland, we are all connected to the sea.

“This is a man-made problem. Every piece of litter has an owner and we all need to take responsibility to not drop litter in the first place.”

The society is aiming to cut the amount of beach litter by 50 per cent in 2015. Ms Snowden added, “In order to achieve this we need to appoint lead agencies with the specific responsibility to stop marine litter and develop a marine action plan now.”

Charlotte Coombes, an MCS conservation officer, said five of the world’s seven remaining species of turtle regularly visit Britain’s waters to feed in the cooler, nutrient-rich seas.

Turtles often mistake plastic bags for their natural jellyfish prey. Wet wipes, which usually contain plastic fibres, pose a similar danger.

She said, “When marine wildlife eat that plastic, which they quite often do, it just stays in the stomach of the animals and quite often they just die of starvation.”

Plastic packaging and discarded fishing nets injure, entangle and drown marine wildlife including seals and dolphins, the society warned.

More than 170 marine animals have been recorded mistaking plastic bags and other items for food, which can result in starvation, poisoning and fatal stomach blockages. It can also be hazardous to people and costs millions of pounds to clear up.

The society is running The Great British Beach Clean. To find out more information, visit www.mcsuk.org.