Storm "Emma" on 3rd March devastated Holyhead Marina, with the loss of 80 vessels and most of the infrastructure. Thankfully, the fuel spillage was limited, and mostly held back by floating booms across the marina entrance. Unfortunately, the pontoon walkways were made of weak polystyrene blocks and many of these broke up completely into a 'soup' of small fragments in the bay. When the wind changed to a southwesterly a few days later, the boom across the marina entrance broke, and a vast quantities of polystyrene beads escaped from the marina, as well as as much larger sections of pontoon, and reports began to come in the pollution affecting a big section of the Anglesey coast.
Several volunteer groups quickly became involved in beach clean-ups and it seemed that Snowdonia Canoe Club could contribute by helping to survey sections of coastline, and help clean up bays that were only really accessible by sea. After all, surely one of the reasons we go sea kayaking is to enjoy the unspoiled coastline?
It quickly became clear that whenever a large block of polystyrene washed ashore, it would quickly fragment and cover a stretch of beach several hundreds of metres long, so the priority was to extract these from the water line immediately. Between 10th March and 1st April members of the club went out on ten separate days, and involved over 300 'man' hours of effort by at least 25 different volunteers - around a third of our membership. We used kayaks to access some remote bays (often by landing on some quite gnarly rocky beaches!), then towed the large blocks to the closest spot where they could be hauled out.
Kay worked out that using small inflatables made the towing a lot easier!
Around 45 cubic metres of polystyrene were removed, mostly from the coastline north and south of Port Swtan (Church Bay). Undoubtedly this would have have had a massive impact on the area if they had been left to break up by the wind and waves - so THANKYOU to all who came out and made the effort. As of today, there are reports of polystyrene from Holyhead reaching Rhyl, Pen Lleyn and even Wicklow and there is still a risk that more will 'escape' from the marina until the clean-up is complete.
Sadly we we will be landing on polystyrene covered shores for many months, if not years to come, and an 'after lunch-stop' beach cleanup may need to become a regular event.