A find of £2,000 worth of fishing tackle might seem like a fisherman’s catch of the day – but it’s anything but booty for the marine environment. This particular haul was the result of a seabed spring clean, at National Trust-owned Stackpole Quay, and is anything but treasure. While Wales partied for the Jubilee at the weekend, Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC), went underwater. Thanks to the team of eleven volunteer divers and flat calm sea conditions, Stackpole’s ocean bed is now a lot cleaner. “This was the first dive at Stackpole this year and as well as 400 weights and as many hooks, we discovered a lost lobster pot and released 17 spider crabs alive,” says David Jones, a volunteer for NARC who are based in Milford Haven.
“The lobster pot was a good find because it stops ghost fishing. When a pot is lost like that, it still catches crabs, which get trapped and eventually die. They in turn become bait for more sea life and so it goes on and on. We also unhooked a dog fish that had been trapped in a discarded line.”
Discarded hooks and lines are a perennial problem in popular fishing areas such as Pembrokeshire. Last year NARC produced a leaflet, funded by EW, in conjunction with the Federation of Anglers to educate fishermen about the rubbish that gets left behind. In 2011 the haul at Stackpole Quay amounted to 730 weights and around 2,000 hooks, as well as fishing line, bottles and rods.
Elsewhere in the marine environment NARC have discovered everything including the proverbial kitchen sink.
“Fly tipping is terrible, we find satellite dishes, carpets and even a kitchen sink, once,” said David, who is also a sea angler. “Our leaflet gives information to help fishermen on where to go, what the sea bed is like in different areas, maps, and also advice on reeling in safely. Nobody wants to leave tackle, as it costs money, so it’s just a matter of education, sometimes about using the right tackle. The worst thing is when people leave stuff on the cliff ledges. We find discarded barbecues, cans and bait wrappers that should just be taken home.”
Jo Horsley, National Trust ‘Environment Wales’ Development Officer, said: “Cleaning up underwater is very unusual and EW was really excited about being able to help when NARC became involved with the initiative as they are unique in the UK. People don’t realise the damage that they are doing to the sea. It’s so vast that it may seem beyond any damage man can inflict. Also what is under the water is out of site and out of mind. Fishing is the UK’s biggest sport and the National Trust wants to encourage people to use the coastal area, but to use it thoughtfully and sustainably. We should leave it as we would want to find it when we come back.”
NARC will return to Stackpole Quay to do more clean ups in August and September.