Ghost Gear investigations… Week one…

And we’re off! At the end of week 1, we’re taking a look back at the first developments from our research project titled ‘Investigating how Ghost Gear and Marine Plastics can become Precious Plastics’.

(If you don’t know what we’re talking about, take a look at our last post!)

So what have we been up to?

The week began with some desk based research to find out a little more about Ghost Gear around the ports of Shoreham and Newhaven; both included within – and at the borders of our research area. As it turns out, there isn’t a great deal to be found. (Information that is… we are sure there is plenty of Ghost Gear!) Both port authorities provide a reasonable amount of information on environmental policies through their webpages, however very little of this links directly to our research area. So I guess we can call this our first major finding – the port authorities of Newhaven and Shoreham have very little publicly available information relating to Ghost Gear! However, this isn’t a major problem for us as we have already began discussions with Fisheries Consultant and industry expert, Harry Owen. Harry is going to be contributing to the work of the project at various stages; but first he is helping to connect us to members of the local port authorities as well as local fisherman who will be able to provide us with the information we require.

We haven’t been sat at our desks all week either! On Tuesday we planned out our observational research. This meant evaluating each section of the Greater Brighton coastline to select areas to investigate and plot any washed up Ghost Gear. The map below shows the different areas for investigation.

At each location, we continue to record information including the types of gear, quantities and contamination levels. Wherever possible, we will also be removing the Ghost Gear so that we can take samples for testing.

These observations are now well underway! On Wednesday, we headed down to a very windy Newhaven beach to conduct the first on-site part of our research stage. This is one of the less commercial stretches of coastline in the Greater Brighton area – and the effects are obvious. Not only was there huge quantities of Ghost Gear, but the amount of plastic washed up on the beach was shocking. Just goes to show that just because you may see less of it on commercial, more populated beaches (because they are regularly cleaned), marine plastic is there… and it’s a serious issue.

We were able to remove a huge amount of gear from the beach; enough to fill a (now slightly smelly) hatchback…

This was repeated on Friday, when we travelled to sector 6 on our map – Rottingdean. With a combination of beach type, from rock groyne bounded pebbles to rockpools, we were particularly interested to see where the ghost gear collected. We had not gone far when we discovered an incredible amount of Ghost Gear wrapped around, under and within the huge rock groynes.

There was too much to leave, so – after braving the inner parts of the groyne (caution – do not try this at home!) we were able to cut free and haul up massive chunks of gear. We will be back to Rottingdean next week to carry on our survey on the rockpool stretches.

WEEK ONE summary:

  • publically available data on ghost gear from Shoreham and Newhaven ports is sparse.
  • ghost gear quantity is higher on less populated beaches.
  • ghost gear variety in the area ranges from nylon nets, to a variety of rope types and rope nets.
  • sometimes there are large accumulations of gear that is hard to retrieve easily, or safely.