Challaborough Bay sunset Devon Natasha Ewins

Positive ocean news: September 2023 edition

4 minute read

We've rounded up some good news stories for our seas from this month, including rescued dolphins, ocean clean-ups and native oyster restoration.

Thousands take part in annual beach cleaning event

Parkdean Resorts Skegness Beach Clean - GBBC 2023

Credit: Tom Gordon

Thousands of volunteers got involved in this year's Great British Beach Clean, sponsored by Cully & Sully Soup, heading to beaches across the UK and Channel Islands to remove and record litter items.

Over 400 beach cleans took place over the 10-day event, with volunteers braving the weather to take part.

The data collected on the beach cleans will help track litter pollution, highlighting trends and allowing the Marine Conservation Society to campaign for change to prevent and reduce litter entering the ocean.

Native oysters returned to Firth of Forth for first time in 100 years

The first batch of native oysters were returned to the Firth of Forth, as part of a project which seeks to reintroduce the species to the area.

Restoration Forth, which is led by WWF and funded by NatureScot, Aviva, Scottish Power Foundation and Moondance Foundation, is working to reintroduce 30,000 native oysters, which disappeared from the area 100 years ago due to overfishing, over three years.

They will be used to create an oyster reef which will act as a habitat for several marine species, and will filter the water, improving marine plants' ability to photosynthesise and grow in it.

Caitlin Godfrey, Shellfish Engagement Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, one of the project partners, said, "Native oysters have huge cultural value in this area and throughout the project we are reconnecting communities with the fascinating history of oysters in the Forth.

“They will play a crucial role in transforming the future of this coastal environment for both people and nature."

Read the full article on the Independent website

New system removes plastic from football-pitch-size area of the ocean in five seconds

The Ocean Cleanup, an organisation which removes plastic from the ocean, particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has developed a new system which is three times bigger than its previous one.

The System 03 was deployed for the first time this month, removing over 11,000 kgs of plastic from the sea, which will be sorted and recycled into new sustainable products.

It features a floating barrier which is 1.4 miles long and a screen which extends 4 metres below the water, where most floating plastic is encountered. The system is guided to areas with the largest amount of plastic, to maximise the amount collected.

Read more on the Good News Network website

Study finds pear trees can act as rich reef habitats

Pear tree artificial reef

Credit: NIOZ/Erik Hoekendijk

A new study has found that felled pear trees can be repurposed to create artificial reefs which attract a swathe of marine species, offering an environmentally friendly way to enhance marine life.

Researchers used pear trees, which are often felled after they no longer produce fruit, to create “tree reefs” in open waters between two Dutch islands, Texel and Vlieland.

After four months, the trees were a "profusion of life". 15 species, including barnacles, anemones, tunicates and algae, were found living on the tree reefs, with other species such as crabs, shrimps and fish also using the reef habitats.

The researchers were surprised at how quickly marine species took to the reefs, stating they expected to find that amount of marine life on the trees after five years, not four months.

As wood is a natural material, it offers a more environmentally friendly alternative to artificial reefs constructed using concrete and other non-natural materials. Pear tree reefs are also low cost, and could last for 15 to 20 years.

Read more on the Mongabay website

Stranded mother and calf dolphins returned to water

A mother dolphin and her calf found stranded on Strangford Lough, Ireland, were safely returned to the water following the help of rescue workers.

Ruby and Josh, medics at the British Divers Marine Life Rescue who were part of the rescue team, soaked sheets and placed them on the dolphins, which had become very dry, to keep them wet until the tide had come in.

Once it had, the pair attempted to release the dolphins back into the water, but the strong tides repeatedly returned them to the sand.

Finally, the mother and calf were both successfully returned to the water and swam off together. They were later seen together in deeper waters of the Lough and are reportedly doing well.

Read more on the Irish News website

UN Plastic Treaty draft

The United Nations Environment Programme released the first draft (known as the treaty zero draft) of the Global Plastics Treaty, a legally binding agreement which aims to tackle the global plastic problem.

Plastic litter on beach

Credit: John Cameron

Environmental organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society welcomed the draft, which acknowledges the scale of the plastic problem and recognises the urgent need to tackle the issue.

The draft includes progressive reduction in plastic production, steps to eliminate single-use plastics and setting up targets for reduction and reuse. It also looks to address chemicals of concern found in plastics.

The next round of talks for the treaty will take place in November, with the final treaty hoped to be delivered at the end of 2024.

Read more on the Metro website

Eight-year-old completes running challenge to raise funds for ocean charity

Eight-year-old Orkney Reid has completed an extraordinary challenge to raise money for ocean conservation charity, the Marine Conservation Society.

Orkney, from the Isles of Scilly, ran around the five inhabited islands of Scilly over five days, completing a total of 56km in 8 hours and 17 minutes.

Although his original goal was to raise £500 for charity, Orkney raised over £4,000. The money will be divided between the Marine Conservation Society and Scilly Wildlife Trust.

Orkney is passionate about the ocean and regularly cleans beaches and goes rockpooling. He is a previous Marine Conservation Society Young Ocean Optimist Award runner-up and has written a blog for the charity about his fascination with marine life.

The challenge was the furthest the eight-year-old has ever run, but has inspired him to do more – he is already planning his next running challenge.