MCS making waves at International Marine Conference

By: Catherine Gemmell
Date posted: 22 February 2019

Summary from Scotland Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell.

What a week! From Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon posting our inflatable Leatherback Turtle on Instagram, to HRH Prince Charles encouraging everyone to take part in the Great British Beach Clean in a key note address, it was fantastic to see the recognition of MCS and our incredible volunteers at Scotland’s first International Marine Conference.

Several MCS staff plus a brilliant team of Sea Champion volunteers made up our delegation to the conference which was attended by delegates from 10 different countries around the world from as far as South Africa and Canada. The event opened with the First Minister announcing support to increase the amount of reusable period products for young girls in Scotland to help both Period Poverty and decrease the amount of plastic sanitary products on Scotland’s beaches.

Inspirational speaker and swimmer, Lewis Pugh, then took us on an emotional roller coaster of a ride with his 1km swim to the North Pole highlighting the damage we are causing to our ice caps and to encourage us all never to give up the fight and stand up for our incredible blue planet. This led into an afternoon of discussions around the issues our oceans are facing from climate change, pollution and human activity. It was great to hear scientists from government referencing MCS Beachwatch data as the best dataset available on beach litter and how it is essential to their modelling and policy work - so thank you to all our amazing citizen scientists!

The evening reception included a whisky tasting run by our wonderful partners Glenmorangie who connected the whisky to the DEEP project where they are working with MCS and Heriot Watt University to restore native oysters back to the Dornoch Firth. Accompanying the whisky was music provided by the Il Mare violin - a voice from and for the sea. The violin was created by Steve Burnett out of a piece of driftwood from a Scottish beach which he is using in collaboration with MCS to connect people to the ocean and its plight through music.

Day Two saw many of us take to the stage talking about our projects and campaigns - from Beachwatch and citizen science to #wildbottlesightings, wetwipes, Sea Champions and working with young people. Have a follow of the #SeasTheFuture hashtag to see how the delegates enjoyed hearing about our work and look out for the formal conference report by Marine Scotland coming soon!

The conference ended with another fantastic shout out to MCS. Graham Black the Director of Marine Scotland said if he could do one thing in the next year he would take everyone in Scotland out on a beach clean as it was only when he had been out on an MCS beach clean that it really hit home how much litter was washing up on Scotland’s shores.

Once the conference was over it didn’t stop! Calum Duncan (MCS Head of Conservation Scotland), Laura Foster (Head of Clean Seas) and Sea Champion Kathleen, were invited to the Ministerial Dinner with Dippy the Diplodocus at the stunning Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum ahead of the British Irish Council meeting the next day. At this meeting Kathleen was asked to give a five minute speech to all of the present Environment Ministers from the governments of Scotland, the UK, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man and officials from Northern Ireland and Wales - an incredible opportunity! She delivered an inspiring speech and gave each Minister a copy to take home so they could listen to their young people and work together to take action to stop the plastic tide.

So, its been a busy few days for MCS but we would not be here and we could not have done it without all of you - our members, our supporters, our volunteers. Thanks to you, the governments of the world are starting to listen - now we need to keep up the pressure and ensure the talking turns to action - our oceans can’t wait - we need to stop the plastic tide NOW!