Boat-loads of litter including a wheelie bin from 100-miles away were collected by the RSPCA during a clean-up of beaches, coves and shoreline in Scarborough.
RSPCA officers regularly have to deal with horrifying injuries and deaths of seals and seabirds which have become entangled in marine litter. In a bid to reduce the number of wildlife casualties, a clean-up initiative called “Operation Sweeping Tides” has been launched to remove some of this debris.
The clean-up took place over the weekend, using RSPCA seaboats for the first time to travel up and down the coast from Scarborough North Bay.
The operation was carried out in conjunction with Scarborough’s local Sea Life Centre, which often cares for the wildlife casualties injured by marine litter that have been rescued by the RSPCA. The event was also extensively supported by Scarborough Borough Council.
Organiser of the event, Inspector Geoff Edmond, National Wildlife Co-ordinator for the RSPCA, said: “We were stunned by the amount of dangerous debris the teams collected in just two days from such a short stretch of Scarborough’s coastline.
“From plastic bags and bottles to broken fishing nets and rope and even a wheelie bin from Newcastle, it was shocking what we found. Our haul included large amounts of discarded netting, which we commonly find seals trapped in. This netting eventually cuts into their blubber and can cause significant injury and fatal infections.
“We also cleaned up a lot of discarded fishing line. Seabirds often become entangled in this then die either from being unable to feed properly or by using it as nesting material which they and their offspring then become entangled in.”
Other debris included plastic bags and other containers, old tyres, buoys and beer barrels. There was even a wheelie bin that had travelled around 100 miles from Newcastle Council.
The RSPCA seaboat team has been taking injured seals to the Scarborough Sea Life Centre for a number of years, and releasing them back into the wild once they have been rehabilitated.
On a recent seal release the RSPCA noticed that to the north of Scarborough there was a significant amount of marine litter that had been washed up by the tides and remained on the beach.
These areas are difficult to access on foot and even more difficult to remove the litter from. So the RSPCA decided to use its seaboats to approach from the sea to remove the potentially lethal material.
On Saturday, the RSPCA seaboats headed north from Scarborough at Scalby Mills and into Jackson's Bay, Cloughton and Hayburn Wyke, before visiting a grey seal colony at Ravenscar. On Sunday the boats went to Gristhorpe to the South of Cayton Bay.
The litter that was collected on the boats was taken back to the beach at Scarborough North Bay and then onto Scarborough Sea Life Centre where it was stockpiled over the weekend, before being taken away in a skip donated free by local skip hire company Murray Brown & Son.
Inspector Edmond continued: “I’d like to thank everyone who gave up their weekend to help with this important clean-up. Marine litter is high on the environmental agenda nationally and globally at the moment as it has been identified as a highly significant issue. Using the seaboats for the marine clean-up was a first for us but given its success, we intend to hold more events.
“By removing this marine debris as well as encouraging others to dispose of their marine litter appropriately, we hope we can make a really positive impact on the welfare of wildlife around our shores.”
If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 1234 999.