Out of sight out of mind?
Until recently most of the human impacts on our seas were out of sight and out of mind. This view is quickly changing as plastic and litter accumulates more noticeably on our coasts and beaches and programmes such as Blue Planet II bring this issue into the public eye.
Plastic debris on beaches and in the sea will remain in marine environment for centuries to come
Bathing waters and beaches in the UK are increasingly failing to reach 'Blue Flag' standards, with high levels of bacteria and litter posing a risk to human health, tourism and wildlife.
In addition, the increasing number and scale of offshore development and shipping traffic can cause high levels of underwater noise and vibrations to radiate into the marine environment. This has the potential to cause injury and disturbance to marine mammals and fish.
Marine litter and plastics
In order to combat marine litter we need: an improved understanding of marine litter pathways and trends; to introduce sector-by-sector litter minimisation practices; efficient and consistent waste management systems; and expanded litter clean-up initiatives. There also needs to be a complete ban on microplastics in consumer and industrial products, including biodegradable’ plastics, and dramatic reductions in single-use plastics, including common items such as plastic bags, cotton bud sticks, straws, and food packaging.
Underwater noise pollution
This is a global issue and solutions are still in their infancy. We have no baseline information on noise levels at sea, or its effect on marine wildlife. There is no policy to reduce harmful noise, and very little evidence to support decision-making in relation to noise impacts.
Marine mammals are particularly sensitive to underwater noise during the construction phase of offshore wind farms. We believe noise should be consistently managed for whole seas e.g. the Irish Sea.
Offshore wind farms are most commonly constructed using piling; essentially a large hammer which drives the foundations of the turbines into the ground. The noise can cause injury to harbour porpoise within close proximity to the turbines. Disturbance noise can also travel up to 26km from the point of construction.
Harbour porpoise use echolocation to detect their prey, predators and mates. Very loud noises can interfere with their ability to echolocate. This is a particular issue as harbour porpoise which feed constantly and need to consume up to 10% of their body weight per day. If noise stops a harbour porpoise’s ability to find food or stops them from accessing good feeding areas, they can only survive a few days. This will not only have an effect on an individual animal but on a population.
Offshore wind developers
We also have places on marine mammal expert working groups for different development projects. We also work with government to ensure the best policy is in place to reduce noise impacts from offshore wind farm construction.
Find out more about our ambitions to eliminate pollution in our report: