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The MCS Plymouth Local Group

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The MCS Plymouth Local Group supports MCS campaigns. Please see below for more information in individual campaigns.

Go Plastic Bag Free!

Whether you live in the middle of the country or right by the sea, reducing our rubbish is an easy thing we can all do to help to protect our oceans. Plastic bags are one of the most dangerous litter items in the sea because they look like jellyfish and are eaten by mistake. You can join the MCS campaign and encourage your family, friends and community to go plastic bag free.

Why should we go plastic bag free? Each household in the UK uses around 400 plastic bags every year. In 2010, MCS volunteers found 7,273 plastic bags in just one Beachwatch weekend. During the 2010 International Coastal Clean-up, which took place in over 100 countries worldwide, over 980,000 plastic bags were found!

What is the problem with plastic bags?Even when we dispose of them correctly, plastic bags are often blown out of bins and landfill sites and end up littering our land and oceans. They never degrade and will remain part of the landscape forever. In the sea, plastic bags look very similar to jellyfish and many birds and marine animals, such as whales and turtles, accidentally eat them. This can cause a blockage in the digestive system and lead to death by starvation.

Help your town or community go plastic bag free and ditch the plastic bag for good! The MCS has made an information pack to make it easy for you to go Plastic Bag Free. You can also check which towns have already gone plastic bag free.

No Butts on the Beach!

Worldwide, cigarette litter is the most common item found on beaches. An estimated several trillion cigarette ends enter the environment every year.

Cigarette litter is a growing environmental concern in the UK and is found in large amounts on the UK’s beaches. During the MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend 2010, over 4,800 cigarette ends were recorded and during the 2010 International Coastal Cleanup, over 1.8 million cigarette ends were found - this is all from just one weekend!

Cigarette ends can be mistaken for food and eaten by marine animals. They have been found in the guts of whales, dolphins, sea birds and turtles, where they may leach toxic chemicals, cause inflammation of the animal’s digestive system and occasionally even death.

Cigarette filters are designed to absorb some of the tar and chemicals found in cigarettes such as cadmium, lead and arsenic. However, once the filter reaches the sea, these toxic chemicals are leached out into the water. Experiments by K. Register in 2000 have shown that one cigarette filter is toxic enough to kill water fleas (Daphnia magna) in 8 litres of water.

Cigarette filters are not biodegradable, as is commonly thought. The filters are made from cellulose acetate, a type of plastic which can persist in the environment for many years. Cigarette filters also contain tobacco, a powerful insecticide. Estimates of the time it takes for a cigarette filter to degrade at sea vary from 12-15 years. Cigarette butts dropped in the street can also end up in our seas and on our beaches through being washed down drains, sewers and carried by rivers to the coast.

What is the MCS doing? In summer 2007, MCS joined the British Naturists and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) for the re-launch of the "No Butts on the Beach" campaign. The campaign aimed to highlight the increasing numbers of cigarette ends being found on UK beaches. Members from all the organisations joined forces on a cold July day on Brighton Naturist Beach to kick start the campaign!

What can you do to help?

  • If you are a smoker - avoid cigarette littering in the street or on beaches, and please take a portable ash tray/butt bin with you. Don't forget a butt bin can be as simple as an empty film canister!
  • Write to your local council to ask for more cigarette bins in public places.
  • Encourage hotels, shopping centres and other businesses to place cigarette bins outdoors.
  • Encourage smokers to carry portable ashtrays with them.
  • Take part in MCS’s Beachwatch projects to help clean and survey beach litter to see whether cigarette ends are a problem on your beach.

For more information you can download the No Butts on the Beach factsheet.

Eat Sustainable Seafood

Did you know some fish are just as endangered as the orang-utan or panda? You can follow the MCS top ten tips for eating sustainable seafood, below.

  1. Be better informed. Visit the MCS website and learn all you can about the issues facing our seas and oceans and how you can make a difference. Find out where your seafood comes from and why making the right choice is good for you, our seas and our fish!
  2. Check for sustainability ratings. This MCS website is the one-stop-shop for consumers who want to find sustainable seafood. It gives information on the sustainability of almost every kind of fish you are likely to come across, along with the fishing/farming methods used to produce the fish.
  3. Carry an MCS pocket guide with you to remind you of these ratings while you’re out and about, or use it for writing your shopping list. This handy guide lists the best choices you can make when buying seafood.
  4. Spread the word. Tell your family and friends all about the importance of choosing sustainable seafood and point them in the direction of the MCS website to find out more!
  5. Variety is the spice of life – this is especially true when it comes to eating seafood. As consumers we are too reliant on the "Big 5" (Cod, Haddock, Tuna, Salmon and Prawns). One of the easiest ways to buy sustainable seafood is to choose alternative species that have not been overfished. Choose Pollack or Gurnard instead of cod, or why not try MSC certified Mackerel instead of Tuna.
  6. Choose fish caught using methods with lower environmental impact such as hand-lining or potting. When buying Tuna, for example, try to buy line caught (pole & line or hand-line) or troll caught, ‘dolphin-friendly’ fish.
  7. Look at labelling information to help you choose sustainable seafood – retailers are required by EU law to state the species of fish, production method (wild caught/farmed), and capture area. Many retailers now provide more information, including capture method. If the labelling information is insufficient for you to make an informed choice, ask the fishmonger/waiter for more information.
  8. Look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo. Seafood displaying this mark can be found in the frozen and fresh counter sections of your retailer, and are becoming increasingly popular in restaurants. They are certified as coming from sustainably managed stocks.
  9. Choose Organic, when buying farmed seafood (Salmon, Trout, Tiger/King Prawns etc). Organically farmed seafood comes from farms with lower stocking densities, high standards of environmental performance and are fed with feed sourced in a sustainable manner.
  10. Avoid eating deepwater fish and sharks. Deepwater species include Orange Roughy, Ling, Redfish, and dogfish (also called Huss or rock salmon) and nursehound, which are species of shark. These tend to be slow-growing, long-lived species which breed slowly. These are all characteristics that make deepwater species and sharks vulnerable to over-exploitation. In addition, fishing for deepwater species can harm fragile species in the deep-sea (such as cold water coral reefs) that may never recover.

Shotgun cartridge wads - can you help us?

The MCS Plymouth Local Group ran two beach cleans on Saturday 12th January 2008 at Jennycliffe and Batten Bay.

During the cleanups, we found a large number of plastic pieces which we could not immediately identify. We sent some of these pieces to the MCS and they have been positively identified as shotgun cartridge wads. However, they are not the military type that we usually find and are more likely to have come from clay-pigeon shooting.

Plastics cause huge problems in the marine environment as they take years to biodegrade. They never fully break down, instead forming microscopic plastic particles that may be ingested by filter feeders. Plastics are responsible for the deaths of thousands of marine animals every year, through ingestion and entanglement.

We have since found more of the shotgun cartridge wads on the beaches at Wembury and Bovisand. We are very concerned about where these wads are coming from and are trying to pinpoint their specific source. We would be grateful if anyone who may have information on their origins could contact us on

Marine litter can have a devastating effect on wildlife and we fully support the aims of the Marine Conservation Society to protect and care for our seas, shores and wildlife. We recently appealed for information on the source of the wads via an article in the Herald - click here for details.

Below are photographs of some of the wads found on the beaches at Wembury and Jennycliffe.

Shotgun cartridge wads found at Wembury. Photograph by Sally Sharrock. Shotgun cartridge wads found at Jennycliffe. Photograph by Amy Bugg. Shotgun cartridge wad found at Jennycliffe. Photograph by Amy Bugg.

We would be grateful if anyone with information on the wads could contact us on the above email address.

Marine Reserves Now!

Volunteers supporting the MCS Marine Reserves Now! campaign Volunteers supporting the MCS Marine Reserves Now! campaign Volunteers supporting the MCS Marine Reserves Now! campaign

The MCS has been campaigning to government to set up a network of Marine Protected Areas of national importance, which would include Highly Protected Marine Reserves - areas where any damaging activity is excluded. We currently have less than one thousandth of one percent of our inshore waters fully protected (one site at Lundy Island) - scientists recommend 20-30% of our seas should be fully protected. Over 60% of UK fisheries are unsustainable, and delicate long-lived species continue to be damaged by bottom trawling.

Evidence from abroad has shown that Marine Reserves can benefit divers, anglers, fishermen and biodiversity. New Zealand has 32 Marine Reserves, and 33% of the Great BArrier Reef is highly protected - many reserves has resulted in increased fish and shellfish populations, whislt biodiversity is protected from destruction, mining and development.

You may be one of the 100,000 people who signed up for "Marine Reserves Now!" on the MCS website, at public events and visitor centres in 2008. You could have been at one of the UK's conservation-aware aquaria when you signed; or a diver reached through the joint campaign with the British Sub Aqua Club.

Your help is needed once more! Please act now: visit and send a NEW message asking your MP to call for marine reserves and other important amendments in the Marine Bill (which is being debated in Parliament right now!).

What these votes have achieved:

- In April 2008, 101,713 signatures were received for the campaign, beating the 100,000 target!
- 100 divers marched, in full scuba gear, to deliver your petitions to Parliament.
- Over the spring and summer, a handful of places - Lamlash Bay (Arran), Fal Bay (Cornwall), and Lyme Bay (Dorset/Devon) - have been protected.

LATEST NEWS, January 2009:

- MCS has just teamed up with The Cooperative Group, campaigning for marine reserves.
- The UK Marine Bill was announced in the Queens Speech, and is right now being debated in Parliament to become law - at last - during 2009!
- The Scottish Marine Bill - needed to deliver sites inshore in Scotland - is due before the Scottish Parliament in Spring 2009 (see

Don't forget: Please visit and send a NEW message asking your MP to support important amendments to the new Marine Bill.

The MCS Plymouth Local Group supports the Marine Reserves Now campaign and has been taking photos of it's volunteers with the Marine Reserves Now poster to submit to the MCS photo campaign. We have also been collecting signatures for the Marine Reserves Now petition. Click the link below to see photos of our volunteers who support the Marine Reserves Now campaign.

Click here to see our Marine Reserves Now! Campaign Gallery!

Don't Let Go!

"Don't Let Go!" is the MCS balloon awareness campaign. Balloons that are let go outside often burst and the balloon pieces that float down cause problems for wildlife. Balloon litter floating at sea is deadly for many marine wildlife species. Marine turtles and some seabirds are particularly at risk, as they feed upon prey that floats at the surface. They may mistake floating balloons for their jellyfish prey and swallow them, or become entangled and drown. Once swallowed, a balloon may block the digestive tract and eventually lead to death by starvation. Some whales, dolphins and fish are also known to have died as a result of eating balloons.

The MCS Plymouth Local Group supports the Don't Let Go! campaign. We will have Don't Let Go! leaflets available at our monthly meetings and will be encouraging our members to sign the Don't Let Go! petition.

You can download the Don't Let Go! campaign pack from the MCS website.

Banish the bags!

The MCS Plymouth Local Group was delighted to see the Daily Mail's new "Banish the Bags" campaign on 25th February 2008. The campaign aims to help rid the UK of plastic bag litter. You can read more about the campaign on the Daily Mail website and more about plastic bags on the MCS website.

Plastic litter can have devastating effects on the environment. It is estimated to kill over one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year through ingestion and entanglement. Additionally, it is a health hazard and a deterrent to tourism, and can foul fishing gear and become entangled in boat propellers. It costs many millions of pounds every year to clean up and dispose of plastic litter.

MCS beach litter surveys indicate that, over the last ten years, beach litter has increased by 80%. Plastics consistently account for more than 50% of all litter recorded.

If you would like to support the campaign and sign the Daily Mail's petition to ban plastic bags, please click here.

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