If you ever needed proof that plastic can pollute the marine environment for a very long time Proinsias Ó Tuama, a driving force of Clean Coasts Ballynamona and teacher at St. Colman’s Community College in Midleton provides it.
I first met him a year ago when he introduced me to the dedicated work of the College’s students who had taken a deep interest in the importance of keeping East Cork beaches clean of litter.
They had removed five tonnes of rubbish from Ballybranagan Beach and he told me about the big community effort by the people and commercial companies around Ballycotton, Garryvoe, Ballymaloe and Midleton, supporting this environmental effort. This commitment has won the students and the community national awards.
There was a big community effort from the people and commercial companies around Ballycotton, Garryvoe, Ballymaloe and Midleton, supporting this environmental effort.
The students and the community effort won national awards for their work.
Proinsias also told me how Ballynamona Strand, close to Shanagarry village on the East Cork coastline is internationally renowned for a long list of bird life including shrikes, larks, citrine wagtails, sandpipers, pipits, American coot and red-necked stint and needs to be kept clean.
One of the items he recovered on Ballynamona Beach was a plastic bottle over fifty years old, washed in from France, a clear indication of how plastic pollutes the seas.
“It is an old Lux washing-up liquid bottle which had originated in France between 1960 and 1962.”
It was between 54 and 56 years old when he recovered it from the water, “embossed in French, in good condition” and priced in French currency at 1 Franc 50 Cents when it was cast into the water somewhere. He sent me the attached photo of it.
In the past two weeks Midleton students have been joined by Transition Year colleagues from Carraig na bhFear on ‘Beach Cleans’ at Redbarn, Claycastle, Pilmore and Ballybranagan and staff from Pepsi Co have been amongst a total of 249 volunteers who have voluntarily put in a total of 677 hours on 8 beaches, removing “thousands of pieces of plastic, 159 bags of rubbish, 18 tyres, thousands of metres of ropes and nets.”
A huge voluntary commitment, emphasising what Dr Simon Berrow, Chief Scientific Officer with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, told me: "Anybody who has walked on a beach in Ireland can’t fail to be shocked at the amount of plastic washed up. It’s a sobering thought that in the 100 years since plastic was invented, there are now islands of it in the oceans."
The EU Circular Ocean Project, run out of Macroom, which I previously highlighted in this, focussing on how the seas around us need to be protected, concluded its programme at a seminar in Cork County Hall.
There the Ghost Fishing Foundation outlined “Operation Stone and Pots” which it carried out in Killary Harbour, County Galway: “We recovered 57 lost lobster pots, hundreds of metres of rope and several fishing nets.”
Not only commercial fishing, but angling also, leaves waste behind, not necessarily deliberately, but which may be lost accidentally, the Foundation said. The Circular Ocean Project is recycling this material into a variety of products, including clothing.
All of this underlines the importance of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan for which a three-month national consultation process is underway. The eventual outcome is to be a 20-year pathway to national economic benefit through Ireland’s maritime resources. It has taken pressure from the European Union, to force the Government to begin work on this plan.
A regional consultation meeting will be held in the Lecture Theatre at Cork University Hospital, Wilton, on Friday of next week, October 19, from 9.30am to 12.30pm.