Winter snowfalls are providing a welcome respite from seeing strand-line plastic – allowing time for focusing on the natural forms of familiar Northern shorelines. One of the lowest tides this winter took place on the 2nd February- allowing access to see some of the biggest and heaviest of our marine algae – Laminaria (Kelp) beautifully bowed over, shiny and relaxed in the slack water . The ‘stand of the tide’ provided me the opportunity for a few hours observation of these brown seaweeds. Close up its easy to appreciate that they produce the main plant material for the coastal food web. Anchored along the low water line and out into the sub-tidal zone the submerged kelp form ‘forests’ – a perfect habitat for fish, shellfish and other animals to get food and find hiding places. The rich biodiversity of our coastline is fascinating and clear to see when walking through this dynamic inter-tidal world/zone .
As the media begins to wake up to the ‘Plastic Pollution’ issue evidenced on our shore lines, I revel in my momentary ‘Plastic Free’ time in the Littoral Zones
reinvigorated by many winter walks in this rich dynamic environment I am preparing to seek out support for my work – to visually tell the story of this important ecological CONTACT ZONE that is now constantly battered and often smothered by our litter.
I am looking for online help to crowd fund for the next phase of this project focusing on making work in public settings this year, to be toured to Harbours, Ports, Museums, Street Festivals next year. Please get in touch if you can offer any help by leaving a comment below or emailing me Julia Barton firstname.lastname@example.org
31 MSPs pledged to take action on plastic pollution by signing at #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition & event at Holyrood in December 2017. I created the exhibition based on my recent NEO Terra installation shown in both Shetland & Ullapool, to illustrate to MSP’s the scale of coastal & marine plastic pollution in Scotland.
Of the MSPs who signed, 50% ticked all of the pledges demonstrating a personal commitment to backing measures to reduce the amount of plastic that contaminates our beaches and sea. 63% are keen to meet with Littoral Art Project to take a closer look at plastic pollution along their constituency shorelines. We will meet local beach cleaning groups (Marine Conservation Society MCS , Surfers Against Sewage SAS and Harbourmasters to learn more about specific beach litter issues in their constituency and to enrol them in becoming Beach Champions.
Photographs by Alan McCredie
Joan McAlpine MSP joined me at Dunbar in her South Scotland constituency, to examine the particular litter issues concerning the Dunbar Harbour Trust as a multi-use Harbour and to take a sand sample from the regularly cleaned south beach.
The exhibition and event received wonderful cross-party support from MSPs, including Graeme Day convener of the Environment, Climate & Land Reform Committee with interesting conversations with many members of the committee. Environment spokesperson for the SL Claudia Beamish who attended the event, later commented in a Parliamentary Debate on the 20th December that “it was truly inspiring to see what art can do to support communities and others in their work on the issue”Roseanna Cunninghamresponded in the debate that ‘……The work of the organisations that the member flagged up is incredibly important, and it needs to be backed up by Government and global action…….’
Thanks to Mark Ruskell, Environmental spokesperson for the Scottish Green Party, for his time to hear about Littoral Art Project’s findings and to talk through the value of LAP’s citizen science approach. He outlined his commitment to rigorous debate about plastic pollution and the connection to climate change legislation. I look forward to following up his links to Fife environment and arts education organisations.
I will also be contacting the other MSP’s interested in bringing the LAP to their constituencies ( Joan McAlpine in South Scotland, Rachael Hamilton in the Borders, Kate Forbes in Skye, Liam McArthur and Jamie Halcro Johnston in Orkney ) and to explore the potential of this creative approach to engage their communities in tackling #MarinePlasticPollution as in Shetland and Ullapool where people joined me in collecting and examining beach samples.
The results of this interactive arts-cum science approach formed the photographic evidence shared with MSPs and is available to share with councils and community groups.
Following on from the success of the Holyrood exhibition, the Shetland Amenity Trust and I will be requesting a meeting with Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. I intend to pass on the LAP research from 120 beaches and the findings of partner organisations, community groups and individuals that took part in the #CleanBeachesScotland event co-hosted by MCS , with major contributers KIMO, SAT, FIDRA, SAMS ). I will be highlighting the extent of plastic pollution originating from the fishing and aquaculture industries, which often makes up to 90% of litter on Northern Scottish beaches and are often under mentioned .
We welcome the recent Scottish Government’s announcement to legislate against environmentally damaging items:
The positive response of so many MSPs during the #CleanBeachesScotland event and the Scottish Governments environmental announcements give hope to all those working to #BeatPollution in Scotland. These are great achievements that need to be actioned and broadened to include the fishing & aquaculture industry’s plastic pollution as soon as possible, so that Scotland can truly be seen to be leading the way internationally towards achieving a cleaner more sustainable environment.
Please follow up with your MSP e.g. suggest helping to bring the project to their constituency. If you/your organisation/group has evidence of plastic pollution on a stretch of the Scottish coastline please leave a comment below or email me so I can include it in the #CleanBeachScotland document that I will present to the Environment Minister.
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Julia has received Creative Scotland awards supported by The National Lottery for the original Littoral Art Project R&D and NEO Terra exhibition that led to this exhibition. The #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition was self-funded by the artist.
Today artist’s working across the Arctic are coming together to share their work at the 2017 RELATE NORTH Symposium at the University of Lapland, Rovaniem – while I am sadly unable to be there a piece of my work from my NEO Terra exhibition will be on exhibit alongside those of artists working in Finland, Canada, Scotland, Alaska, Russia, Somi Republic, Norway and Sweden.
The piece I have sent is one of my #LitterCUBES, made from plastic particles collected from along the strandlines of Shetlands beaches during my residency there in 2016.
#LitterCUBE 2016 – is a compressed assemblage of mixed polymers Polyethylene terephthalate [PE-PET -PETE] Compressed assemblage 5 x 5 x 5 cm.
52 of the 60 beach sand/substrate samples I collected from Shetland contained plastic particles . Many of the strandlines were thick with plastic fibres and particles. In extreme instances the fibres & particles mound up metres deep – the link to their source ropes/nets/cord of the commercial fishing industry is plain to see.
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The consequences of such pollution are thankfully increasingly being monitored by scientists like Obbard. And marine biologists like Winnie Courtene-Jones who are researching and documenting the effects of micro-plastics on invertebrates in the Deep Sea. Plastic has been ingested by marine organisms as small as Sand-hoppers and Algae at the bottom of the food chain . The consequences of this pollution is ironically massive for the fishing industry . Below are a few of the creative community workshop images envisaging the issue of plastic fibres taken on during my project.
My visual essay of my work in Shetland is being published by the University of Lapland Press this week and will shortly be available on-line.
Shetland’s Littoral Zones: An art-science project revealing the legacies of plastic pollution on beaches in the north of Scotland.consequences of plastic leaking into Northern ecosystems.
As my expedition to Shetland enters its last few weeks I am travelling to as many beaches and foreshores that I can to examine the littoral zones and to collect Plastiglomerates.
This morning I picked my way carefully along the tideline of Channer wick beach a steep pebble beach on the eastern side of Shetlands mainland keeping an eye out for waders nests and watching the Fulmar chicks fledging out of burrows set in the bank of the back beach while I myself was being in turn watched by three common seals basking close in to the shore line. Facing southeast this beach is cleaner than most beaches around the Shetland/World though plastic litter is there knitted into the raised back beach landscape
My main aim is to collect up as amny of the Plastiglomerates I can find, so far I have found them on nearly every beach I have surveyed, even on the beautiful world renowned St Ninians (tabola), where they tend to be small fragments collecting usually at the south west corner of the beach.
My notes help me keep track of my finds, the type of beach, aspect amount of easily visible litter and the amount of what I collect.
The numbers of sacks are a crude summary of the amount of litter that each beach is subject to and the prevailing tidal flows and whether the tidal flows are able to wash the litter out to sea once it’s there or whether the landforms entraps the litter like at beaches such as Burrick (above left) where so far we have collected 6 sacks, or at Meal where I lifted several large slabs off the rocks, or at Mangaster (below) and Mavis Grind where the the Hightide lines are almost as deeply littered as at Burick.
Mavis Grind is a significant point in Shetlands Geo Park being a narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and the North Sea where boats were hauled traditionally from one side to other to avoid the long row around. On my journey north today I intend revisiting Mavis Grind to try and understand more clearly the significance of the landforms (Taings : tonues of land ) that entrap what the Atalantic and passers by leave. Connectivity permitting I will share my findings.
Alongside collecting the Plastiglomerates usually within the high tide zone, I have been taking small samples of sand/seaweed from the splash zones that evidently contain micro-plastics. This week I will ask Higher school pupils on Whalsey Island to examine and compare samples taken from their own shorelines with those I have taken from around the Shetland Mainland. I look forward to their observations creative interpretations and wonderfully visiting another one of Shetlands 100+ Islands.
Having completed a year’s research monitoring beach litter on the west coast of Scotland, I have selected twelve images that I feel summarise my findings along the west coast ‘littoral zone’ . The beaches I have surveyed are Grid- referenced and are located between Loch Broom (NH 133 939) in the south and Loch Inver (NC 094 973) in the north.
Toy Gun Plastic Ullapool
A poignant find that lay washed up along the upper shore of the north east beach of Ullapool. I have found toys on every beach I have surveyed.
Polystyrene Rhue point
A common sight on each of the beaches I have monitored. Often large blocks, boxes or takeaway cups break into individual particles that float and litter the rock pools when broken against rocks. They are subsequently ingested by birds mistaking them for food.
Bottles Plastic Isle Martin
Found on every beach. Along the Back Beach (Camas a Bhuailidh) on Isle Martin the nearest of the Summer Isles in the mouth of Loch Broom, I recovered over 100 bottles which had contained drinks, cleaning fluids, oils etc. All the bottles towed from Isle Martin on World Environment Day were recycled.
Melted Plastic Isle Martin
Hard to see rock-like forms which blend into the cobbles of the Ross-shire beaches. These predominantly grey plastic forms are the result of plastic rubbish that has been burnt on ships/trawlers or on the beach.
Strandline mix Plastic Dun Canna
The strandline of this west-facing beach on Loch Kinnaird is one of the worst I have witnessed . Broken fragments of every type of litter is mixed into the seaweed.
Prawn boxes Badentarbet
Unsurprisingly, in a significant prawn fishing area, broken corrugated plastic prawn boxes are common place on every beach survey .
Rope, cord, line and nets Badentarbet
The highest percentage of litter that I have recorded has been made up of commercial fishing related materials such as ropes and cord: none of these at present can be recycled in the Highlands.
Fibres Plastic Altandu
Close between the cobbles, sand grains or within the seaweed are millions of plastic fibres from deteriorating rope, bags, boxes which could be ingested by birds, fish and sand hoppers. I collected 1/2 litre of fibres from 1m of seaweed along (Camas an Fheidh)
Soldier Plastic Altandu
I found this soldier amongst one of the most severely littered beaches in the area. I intend to enlist him in my Littoral Art Campaign in the coming year
Gun cartridges Loch of Reiff
It was explained to me by two local beach watchers & cleaners in the Reiff area that the opaque splayed tubes that are numerous along beaches in this area are the inner sleeves of gun cartridges. In the water they are often perceived as squid by turtles and porpoise and eaten.
Plastic tubing Loch of Rieff
Evidence of large scale commercial dumping like this mass of plastic tubing is evident on the beaches close to commercial fishing areas. The scale of it takes your breath away
Food containers & implements Loch Inver
On a much smaller scale but equally insidious is the common takeaway litter stuffed/trapped between the strandline rocks of harbour walls
I intend during 2015 – 16 to make artworks to hopefully encourage all of us to keep our seas and littoral zones clean. Please keep reading and supporting this project in any way that you can. Happy New Year