Marine Litter Marine Life Meeting, Durness, Dec 2019

The Marine Litter, Marine Life Meeting, hosted by Highland Environmental Forum was held in Durness, 6th Dec 2019. The meeting was chaired by Andy Summers, High Life Highland countryside ranger for Assynt and Senior ranger for the North Highlands, and attended by a variety of community groups, Highlife rangers, volunteers, schools and artists. The meeting consisted of seven presentations, covering many aspects of marine litter and marine life in the NW Scottish Highlands. Please see below for the list of talks presented with a brief description and link to the presentation where available.

In the discussion that followed all groups involved agreed that it was important for Highland Environmental Forum, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage to continue facilitating the Marine Litter Group, and that is was also important to have the Marine Life aspect joining the meeting. We discussed the problems faced when tackling plastic pollution, in particular how to properly survey and coordinate beach cleans across groups. Plastic@Bay Director Julien Moreau, asked for groups that do regular beach cleans for example, Caithness Beach Cleans, to report dates and weights to Plastic@Bay to process, and also for groups and individuals to report the locations of major litter sinks along the North West coast to help improve his marine litter oceanographic model (see in presentations below for details). We all agreed as a group to communicate important information and up coming events regarding plastic pollution, talks, beach cleans etc, through groups individual websites and social media accounts. For the minutes of the meeting please go to the Highland Environmental Forum website.

Finally approx 25 attendees went to visit the Plastic@Bay’s workshop,  Plastic Lab, 16d Balnakeil Craft Village. Julien gave a talk about the types of plastic pollution P@B collect from the local beaches and gave a brief demonstration on how they process and recycle plastic using their shredder, compression oven, injection press, and a plastic extruder.  

Highlife Ranger Jenny Grant: Food in my Belly.

Engaging with primary school children about plastic litter. Jenny’s approach is to first get children to appreciate the outdoors and wildlife so they will then be concerned about their welfare, including the detrimental effects of plastic litter.  Jenny and the pupils of Poolewe primary school made tote bags advertising adverse effects of litter on marine life and exhibited this at the marine conference last September 2018, and in Ullapool Harbour. 

Julia Barton, #LitterCube exhibition. 

Julia Barton, littoral:sci-art project makes cubes out of litter collected from the shores around Scotland. Each cube is made from one type of litter, for example mussel pegs, strapping, cotton buds or ropes to name just a few. She then calculates the equivalent of litres of petrol that each cube represents to show the amount of energy consumed in the making of each cube. She is looking for a space to exhibit her cubes during the Climate Summit in Glasgow 2020. She also wants to make them available to local community. 

See Julia Presentation here

Julien Moreau, Plastic@Bay. Circular economy experiment to tackle plastic pollution

Julien talked about the work done by Plastic@Bay in the last year, the problems we face concerning plastic pollution on the North West coast of Scotland in terms of volumes of plastic washing up on our shores and where we think the main stock of plastic is coming from, and future activities, including a Beach Clean Festival, Scourie,  May 2020.

Julien has started a collaboration with an environmental consultant, Tom Scanlon, MTS-CFD, which creates numerical scenario to reproduce the observed pollution in our area. 

David and Avril Haines. Assynt Field Club

First David discussed how to use Beach Track, the new SMASS app for uploading information on beach pollution and strandings. Secondly he talked about a chance meeting with a dutch scientist, J.A. van Franeker, at Store LightHouse. This scientist has been researching plastic found in the stomachs of fulmars since the 70’s ( If you find a dead fulmar he would be happy to take it and examine the contents of it’s stomach. You must first freeze the fulmar and then send it to Aberdeen. Contact David at for more details.

See David and Avril’s presentation here.

Jane Matheson, Fiona Saywell: Nursery Campaigners in Lochinver.

Jane talks about how pre-school children at Lochinver ELC who have recently been in the news and have put together a video to share with us how their work finally influenced their local harbour to join others in helping to reduce marine litter, by becoming a KIMO harbour.

Ivan Lagoa, Loch Duart: Doing things differently.

Ivan gave a summary of practices in Loch Duart concerning treatment and pharmaceuticals used for fish lice. Regarding beach cleans, he stated that although Loch Duart get a bad wrap they are not to blame for a lot of the discarded fish farm equipment found on the NW coast. Mostly they find that it is either, not theirs, as they are very careful not to lose large nets and feeder pipes, or they are historical remnants of older fish farms from the 80’s and 90’s. Ivan also said Loch Duart try to encourage staff to do beach cleans, but it is difficult to get people out to clean on a voluntary basis on their day off. Loch Duart is also involved in policy making to make fish farming more environmentally friendly, an example is they have campaigned to prolong the time it is allowed to use large fishing nets, currently they can only be used for five years.

Notes to follow.

Sue Pomeroy: It’s not all rubbish-surveying and sausages

Sue talked about Little Loch Broom Citizen Science shore line survey, with Peter Cunningham, a marine biologist working on Skye and Wester Ross. Little Loch Broom receives almost no plastic pollution and has a trieving sea-life. This project has recently received funding from SNH to buy surveying equipment. If you would like to get involved they have an active facebook posting dates for future surveying events.

Talk to follow.

The meeting was also attended by Cllr Trish Roberson, Junior Vise President of KIMO, organizers of Fishing For Litter Scotland a scheme where participating fishing vessels collect marine litter caught in their nets and deposit it in participating harbours for disposal. Kimo plays a important role in getting harbours to acknowledge the problem of marine litter, and getting harbours involved in collecting marine litter is vital to cleaning the seas around Scotland.