Sussex University students clean up Shoreham Beach and learn more about marine life

Members of Sussex University Wildlife and Conservation Society on Shoreham Beach. Picture: John Charlish
Members of Sussex University Wildlife and Conservation Society on Shoreham Beach. Picture: John Charlish

A wide range of debris was taken off Shoreham Beach thanks to students spreading out over a wide area for a beach clean.

Members of Sussex University Wildlife and Conservation Society met up with John Charlish, a committee member of Friends of Shoreham Beach who has organised many beach clean and awareness events with family groups, Scouts and residents.

Litter items included drink cans, bottle tops, nylon rope and numerous small pieces of plastic

Litter items included drink cans, bottle tops, nylon rope and numerous small pieces of plastic

The students were visiting on a sunny afternoon and armed with litter grabbers and sacks, they spread out over the beach, collecting a wide range of debris from the shingle plants and tideline.

Large amounts of litter were also picked up from around the groynes and beach hut, to prevent it blowing into the sea.

Litter items included drink cans, bottle tops, nylon rope and numerous small pieces of plastic.

John explained: “These small pieces of plastic started off as large pieces that have degraded and broken down.

“While the large items are unsightly, the small pieces are the most dangerous as these tiny pieces are easily ingested by birds, fish and many other marine life.”

Microplastics, mostly invisible to the naked eye, are microscopic pieces of plastic and man-made cloths fibres readily ingested by all sorts of marine life from plankton to marine worms and molluscs.

Steve Savage, another committe member and a zoology student, said: “A relative of the albatross, the fulmar, is prone to swallow plastic such as bags, balloons, floating plastics as well as randon items such as toothbrush and cotton buds.

“Fulmar fly low skimming the surface of the sea for food. They nest each year on the cliffs east of Brighton. Scientists report that most of the dead stranded fulmar around the UK show signs of plastic ingestion but this is highest for fulmars in the channel.”

After the beach clean, the students learned about some of the natural objects that are washed up on the beach and what they can tell us about the marine life of the coast.

Objects collected included cuttlefish bones, dogfish and ray egg cases, whelk eggs, sea shells and the remains of various crabs.

If you are interested to help with a beach clean event at Shoreham, contact John Charlish by email, friendsofshorehambeach@gmail.com