For the past four years, a volunteer team of divers have journeyed to Orkney for a week to spend time carefully removing lost fishing gear from the waters of Scapa Flow. This is the Ghost Fishing UK project, which I became aware of back in 2015, when the re-use yard where I was working was asked to help with recycling some of the retrieved gear, to prevent it going into landfill. This year, as well as training new divers, the team organised a talk in Stromness Town Hall, to let local folk know about their work, and fund raise for future projects.
Our Lass and I went along, to hear the various speakers talking about Ghost Fishing UK, World Animal Protection and research into micro-plastics by academics from the International Centre for Island Technology.
At this point, we hadn't watched the BBC documentary 'Drowning In Plastic', but with that harrowing experience yet to come, it was a little reassuring to know that work is being done by dedicated professionals and volunteers, at both local and international levels, to try to remedy the problem of plastic pollution of the oceans.
Also this week, I attended an evening talk, arranged by the local branch of the Scottish Ornithologists Club, about a Lesser Black-backed Gull tracking project (Tag 'n' Track) being run by the ranger team at Clyde Muirshiel Country Park, west of Glasgow. Data obtained from the GPS tags fitted to the gulls, helped explain their movements in the local area during the breeding season, and also where the gulls migrated to during the Winter (Portugal and West Africa).
On Friday evening, we sat down to watch the 'Drowning In Plastic' documentary, a programme that leaves the viewer in no doubt just how utterly and completely humans have fucked up the oceans. I'm sorry for my coarseness, but how else can one react to the volume of plastic pollution pouring into the environment, or the equally horrific volume of plastic inside the stomachs of marine animals. I will not be able to look at a sea bird colony in quite the same way ever again, knowing that the crowded rock ledges of auks and gulls are really innumerable individual conglomerations of plastic fragments. And, I guess, whenever a marine animal dies (be it a fish, a turtle, a bird, or a seal), as its forlorn remains decompose, those same pieces of plastic will be released back into the ocean, to inflict yet more harm to wildlife. Some days there just aren't enough expletives.
We ended the week on a slightly more upbeat note, by going along to a Fungi Foray organised by the Orkney Field Club. On a surprisingly calm and mild Autumnal morning, the local fungi recorder gently ushered a group of fourteen of us around the clifftop habitat of the Mull Head Nature Reserve in Deerness. Whilst not typical fungi habitat (the outing is usually held in Binscarth Wood, I believe), the grassland and maritime heath of Mull Head is an area which is under-recorded for this taxon. During an entertaining and informative wander, we found ten different types of fungi, a few of which were identifiable to species, the others to probable Genus. The star find was some coral fungus, discovered under a diminutive stand of Dwarf Willow.
I shall leave you with this thought... please think about the plastic in your lives. We can't make it disappear overnight, but we can endeavour to reduce our use and re-use or recycle where possible.