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Torbay Cleaner Coasts Initiative

Devon and Cornwall conservationists join forces to form Torbay Cleaner Coasts Initiative: by Natallia Paliakova

A new initiative which aims to clean up and protect the coastal habitats in Torbay, Devon, is being launched this Sunday 27 August 2017 in Brixham, formed by the following organisations: Fathoms Free, Tide, Living Coasts, Community Seagrass Initiative, Marine Management Organisation, Torbay Harbour Office, Torbay Council, Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, Nautilus Dive Charters and British Divers Marine Life Rescue. Torbay Cleaner Coasts Initiative is a unique partnership between environmental charities, local authorities and commercial operators, each bringing their own perspective and capabilities, united in their passion for protecting the environment from the issues it faces today. Its main objective is to prevent and reduce marine litter pollution in Torbay and its impact on marine organisms, habitats, public health and safety as well as reduce the socioeconomic costs it causes.

There are several issues the Initiative partners will focus on: abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, harmful fishing practices and littering are some of them.

Lost or discarded net, lines and pots, also known as ghost gear, is dangerous to marine life such as seals, whales and porpoises, marine birds and shellfish that can become entangled or caught, causing infections, constrictions and death.

Fishing and angling gear is often unavoidably lost and enters the ocean through accident or poor conditions potentially remaining there for centuries. It can have serious implications for the welfare of marine animals, fisher safety, livelihoods and biodiversity.

In a similar vein, litter discarded or blown into the ocean poses a threat to marine animals which mistake it for food and face malnutrition, starvation and slow death from ingesting it. Plastics break into tiny pieces, called microplastics, and eventually enter the food chain by being ingested by fish and shellfish. Litter turns pristine beautiful coasts into unsightly dumping grounds and spoils the enjoyment of beach- and ocean-users, thus harming the local community and tourism.

The initiative will adopt a multi-faceted approach to tackling the issues. The project partners will aim to remove litter from the marine environment where practical and feasible, by organising ghost gear retrieval dives and from the coastal area through beach and coastal cleans in and around Torbay. They will work towards enhancing knowledge and awareness of marine litter, by raising awareness and producing educational materials and opportunities to engage with local communities. Marine users will be supported in litter reduction by highlighting and promoting use of environmentally friendly alternatives, sustainable practices and recycling options.

Hope’s Nose ghost gear retrieval Sat 19th Aug 2017

The initiative had its first in the series of planned clean-up events take place last Saturday 19 August 2017 on Hope’s Nose, a popular angling spot off Torquay. Volunteer divers from Fathoms Free, supported by Warwick Saunders of Nautilus Dive Charters and his vessel Argonaut, conducted 2 ghost gear retrieval dives during which they retrieved a ton sack of matted monofilament line, hooks, lead weights and broken fishing rods, as well as general rubbish such as bottles and cans. The issue of angling gear on Hope’s Nose, first spotted and highlighted by Peter Glanvill, has been persisting for decades. As a result, a thick carpet of fishing line has accumulated on the sea floor, trapping marine life and snagging more angling gear. Numerous marine animals have been spotted trapped by the ghost gear, such as a cat shark, common crabs, spider crabs and lobsters. Many of them were freed by the divers. The site has a complex topography, with underwater boulders that also snag fishing line. Further dives will be organised to lift the remaining ghost gear, which will make snagging less likely. As a preventative measure against future gear loss, a map of the underwater area will be produced to aid fishermen not familiar with the site.

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