Pembrokeshire based voluntary group Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this dive season. Founded in 2005 by local diver Dave Kennard, the army of volunteers has carried out hundreds of dives to help protect the coast of Pembrokeshire.
As well as the more common finds such as plastic bags, shopping trolleys, bikes, cans, tyres, lost angling gear, the group have stumbled upon some more surprise discoveries over the years including satellite dishes, a Mitsubishi van and even the kitchen sink.
The figures speak for themselves and echo the tireless efforts of the volunteers, both on and off land. 10,000 weights, equating to more than a tonne of lead, have been brought up from the seabed and at least 6,500 hooks and endless fishing line.
Just last week, with help from local fishermen, the group recovered an incredible 40 ghost fishing shellfish pots from Milford Haven’s Dale Peninsula. In the last five years, 87 lost shellfish pots have been recovered, helping to reduce the potential for ghost fishing. Twenty one of these were removed from Skomer Marine Nature Reserve in 2014, from which 19 lobsters, 29 brown crabs, 26 spider crabs and three fish were released. Sadly, cutting free wildlife has become a common occurrence for the divers, often discovering entangled wildlife in fishing line or snared on hooks.
Dave Kennard, founder and chairman of Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners, reflects back on the 10 years: “It’s amazing to have been going for 10 years. What started out as a mission to tackle marine litter that is often out of sight, out of mind, has grown into an established group with regular clean ups, hard working volunteers and strong partnerships with local schools, the community, fishermen and our funders. We are not trying to just protect our marine environment by collecting litter but also educate everyone to consider the conservation of our beautiful coastline.”
David Jones, secretary of Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners, added:“There are a number of reasons that we have been able to carry on clean-up diving and raising awareness over the last 10 years but the most important one is the dedication of the volunteers. Through bad weather, cold water and often terrible visibility volunteers have continued to turn up, muck in and take part in grass roots marine conservation. It is also a huge thanks to our funders over the last 10 years who have supported our work. We are unaware of any other group in the UK that has carried out continuous clean-up dives over such a long-time. We are looking forward to another 10 years and if possible helping others to get going. Thank you.”
Blaise Bullimore, regular volunteer for the dive group, said:“We regularly promote the negative impacts of marine litter and record data to report what we have recovered. But despite those figures being incredible nothing quite communicates the danger than seeing it first hand when you are on the seabed. We must encourage sea users to wake up and consider the environment below the surface, and to all do their bit.”