The first of the 2019 series of beach cleans have been planned by campaign group Clean Coast Outer Hebrides, with distressing evidence already this year of the impact of marine litter on island wildlife.

On February 1st a seal was found tangled in a fishing net on Dalbeg Beach. The net had cut into the seal’s neck and reduced its ability to hunt and eat, leaving it thin and vulnerable. It had eventually died of starvation.

Clean Coast Outer Hebrides is a group of people who care about the coastal environment. They were formed in 2018 and are dedicated to raising awareness of, and actively pursuing solutions to, pollution in the Outer Hebrides. In 2018 the group carried out a number of beach-cleaning events, working with community groups and schools to do something about the impact of pollution on and around our shores.

One large event was held last year in Sandwick Bay, and another in the west of the Isle of Lewis, and the group also created a prize-winning float for Lewis Carnival.

Chair Janet Marshall said: “It is hard to ignore the fact that the shores of the Outer Hebrides are getting dirtier, more plastics, more visible, and worryingly more invisible, pollution. My original aim was to do a little fundraising in order to charter boats to reach the less accessible shores. However, following my postings the response was so fantastic, so enthusiastic, and simply brimming with good ideas that I have set my sights a bit higher.”

The group can provide advice, support and materials as well as leading the events. This year’s first events will be at Brue at 11am this coming Saturday (February 16th) and at Bayble at 11am on February 23rd.

Both are being organised together with Surfers Against Sewage and Parley, a thinktank of people who want to protect our oceans using creative means. 

Janet said: “Last year more than 50 local volunteers showed up and recovered over 500 kg of plastic. An astonishing 2,000kg of potentially harmful material was safely removed from the beach areas. This work was completed working with our co-organisers the Bragar and Arnol Community Trust, Barvas and Brue Community Centre, and the Horshader Community Development.”

For more information about the work of CCOH go to their website

The image of the seal is by Noel Hawkins, Ullapool Living Seas Project. Other images show enthusiastic beach-cleaners in Back and on the Westside last year. (CCOH)