This week I have been fortunate to witness the arrival and departure of numerous yachts from all around the world tied up to the pier and pontoon in Lerwick old harbour. On Thursday the Harbour Authority gave a special welcome to The Stratsraad Lehmkuhl the 1914 barque rigged training ship on its 100th arrival, it was accompanied by 16 smaller tall ships and yachts all of which tied up for the night. This event and the the daily arrivals of cargo ships, trawlers, ferries and regular crusie liners from across the world served to remind me of Shetlands global connectivity at 60 degrees North.
Yesterday I was introduced to the wonders of online vessel tracking software www.vesseltracker and http://www.aquatera.co.uk/ShetlandShipping.asp . I am now happily learning to identify the boats in harbour, anchored out in the channels and disappearing on the horizons and find out where they are from and going to.
My wish is that we could track the litter as efficiently, so we could see where it enters the oceans and who is responsible locally & globally. Once our litter enters the tidal flows it’s on a journey that will last as long as the material. Gun wads (the plastic containers that hold the shot in a gun cartridg) is a case in point found all around Scotland. But the origin can be from near or far depending where you are. For instance on the west coast of the Highlands it is generally recognised that the gun wads littering the beaches are predominantly from local shoots, the wads being washed into the burns and into the sea.
On Shetland where almost no shooting takes place it is thought that the gun wads may be from the east coast of USA and Canada where seal culls take place every year, the Atlantic tidal currents regularly bring hundreds of identifiable US plastic Fish box tags to the same beaches where the gun wads are picked up. The wads could also be from seal culls taking place much nearer, Iceland, Norway and Finland all have annual shoots. closer perhaps mainland Scotland (deer and claypigeon shoots)l large numbers of seals
The wads could also be from seal culls taking place much nearer, Iceland, Norway and Finland all have annual shoots some could also arrive from the Scottish mainland (deer and clay pigeon shoots) large numbers of seals, Gun wads are made of HDPE one of the slowest biodegrading plastics it is estimated upwards from 400years.
Gun wads are made of HDPE one of the slowest biodegrading plastics it is estimated upwards from 400years possibly a thousand. The threat to marine life is well established and easy to understand when looking at the underwater litter line shots of the gun-wads taken off Isle Martin which visually shows how marine mammals can easily mistake the wads for squid.
What we drop matters wherever we are. Recent Bruck (litter) washed up onto Shetland shores includes a MacDonalds balloon (nearest stores Bergan and Aberdeen) and what we have dropped across Shetland this week will no doubt will be on its journey to an isle nearby or far away on the next high tide tonight. Heres hoping the annual Redd Up litter clean up has picked up all the gun wads off !