An Taisce’s annual Clean Coasts Symposium & Ocean Hero Awards were held on Wednesday 19th November at The Royal College of Physicians, Dublin. The Clean Coasts Symposium brought together key stakeholders in the area of marine litter such as coastal communities, policy-makers, NGOs, tourism bodies, the science community, plastics industry and the fishing industry. The presence of marine litter in our oceans is a global concern that requires action. Adequate measures are needed to address the pressure of litter in the marine environment both at sea and on land whereby public awareness and community action plays a vital role. Clean Coasts is about engaging communities in the protection of our beaches, seas and marine life. There are currently 423 Clean Coasts groups participating in the programme. The prestigious Clean Coasts Ocean Hero Awards are about recognising the invaluable work done by these committed volunteers across the country on a daily basis to protect Ireland’s beautiful coastline.

Speaking at the Symposium Martin Dorey said, “The 2 minute beach clean can be whatever you want it to be. You just pick up a few bits whenever you go to the beach and put them in the rubbish. Simple. Every piece of litter you remove from the marine environment is a piece of litter that will no longer entangle wildlife, break into thousands of tiny pieces and end up in the food chain or ghost fish for eternity. Every piece counts.” He added, “It is wonderful to be working with An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme to promote the 2 Minute Beach Clean in Ireland.”

Speaking at the event, Annabel FitzGerald, Coastal Programmes Manager, An Taisce said, “We organize hundreds of beach cleans mobilizing thousands of volunteers to remove considerable quantities of marine litter from our coastline. For example, during The Big Beach Clean weekend in September, 103 Clean Coasts groups removed 33,442 litter items from 128km of coastline. This was done in one weekend and serves as an indicator of the magnitude of the problem of marine litter.” She added that, “the top ten litter items included the usual suspects; recreational litter like plastic bottles and aluminum cans, cigarette butts, fishing litter such as ropes and nets and sewage related litter such as cotton bud sticks.”

Speaking about Clean Coasts Ocean Hero Awards, she added “All 423 Clean Coasts Groups should be incredibly proud of the impact they have made in protecting the coast. Collectively they have removed over 500,000 pieces of litter from the Irish coast during 2014. The Ocean Hero Awards are about celebrating these coastal custodians and will hopefully inspire others to join the movement for litter free seas.”

For a video of the presentations, please see the attached youtube link.

The Clean Coasts Programme is operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce and is supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland.

Ocean Hero Awardees

School of the Year Award

Poulfur NS, Wexford

“In a year in which our community remembers and celebrates the Ocean Heroes of our parish (whose acts of valour in 1914 saw 9 of them losing their lives whilst saving the lives of others) whom we remembered during the Clean Coasts Programme this year, we are humbled by the honour bestown upon our school and community by being awarded Ocean Hero School of the Year 2014. Our project drew together the very best of local (Sandra and Anne of Hook Residents Association), county (Cliona Connelly - Wexford County Council) , national (Aidan Gray and An Taisce Clean Coasts) and school efforts and has left a lasting legacy with the children, the future of our community.”

Event of the Year

Lissadell and Drumcliffe/ Rathcormac Clean-up of Coolbeg

"Drumcliffe bay is an important aspect of our local enviroment and we in Drumcliffe Rathcormac Tidy Towns greatly appreciate the help and advice of Clean Coasts in our efforts to maintain the health and cleanliness of this important natural resource."

Newcomer of the Year Award

Burrenbeo Trust Conservation Volunteers

“The Burrenbeo Conservation Volunteers is an active voluntary community that works towards the sustainable management of the Burren (north County Clare and south County Galway), by addressing key conservation issues in the region, e.g. coastal clean ups, habitat management and dry-stone wall building and repair. The spring storms hit the Burren coastline hard this year resulting in vast amounts of debris being carried far inland. With a lot of hard labour and the support of Clean Coasts we have made a huge difference, leaving a large section of the Burren coastline visibly cleaner. We would like to thank all our volunteers for taking part in this project and the Clean Coasts team for all their support and advice. Our future plans include monitoring the Burren coastline and working to keep it as clean and litter free as possible.”

Volunteer of the Year Award

Dan Clabby

Business of the Year Award

Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium

“Oceanworld Aquarium has been involved with Clean Coasts for the past number of years. We organise and co ordinate beach cleans on the Dingle Peninsula as well as educating people about the importance of clean seas and awareness of coastal clean ups.”

Person of the Year

May Burns

“It is a privilege to be involved in something as important as caring for our coastline. Becoming involved with the Clean Coasts group has helped us in the North-West to focus on protecting the wonderful natural resource that is our ocean.”

Group of the Year Award

Wexford Sub Aqua Club

"Wexford Sub Aqua Club, delighted to have been the first Irish dive club to get involved with the Clean Coasts programme. Founded in 1971 and a member of Cleancoast since 2007"

Long Term Contribution for Clean Coasts by an Individual

Margaret Browne, Sandycove, Dublin

Sandycove Coastcare Group: “The immense popularity of Sandycove beach involves a proactive approach to maintain not only its appeal for visitors but also to raise awareness and protect the precious rich marine habitat. To that end the Sandycove Coastcare Group was established 10 years ago and in addition to the physical efforts involved in maintaining the upkeep of the coast it has attempted to build community spirit, team-work along with a sense of pride and respect for our natural environment.”