FACE MASKS and dog 'poo bags' have become a greater problem for coastal litter in 2021, according to a survey by NGO Coastwatch.
As part of its survey for this year, it found that there was a 21% increase in the number of sites where one or more face mask was recorded, compared to 18% in 2020.
The dog poo bag is now recorded as a shore litter feature in beach areas, but was not mentioned five years ago.
"There are more dogs around and it appears that there are many dog owners
who use dog poo bags to clean up after their pets but then drop these on the shore," Coastwatch said.
"Aquaculture litter is changing too, with more plastic used instead of metal," it continued. "Some astonishing wasteful practise – like single use cable ties to hold oyster bags – an auro of such cable ties were reported around L Foyle aquaculture."
The MV Alta ghost ship on a Cork shore was recorded as the largest lump of marine litter.
Unless removed from the rock platform it is now perched on, the 75m long metal, with
paint, plastics and bits of asbestos ship "will break into umpteen pieces which will make
their way down the coast."
Water pollution also remains a problem, with frequent sewage pollution on the shores of 14 sites.
However, there were some highlights noted in the survey, with citizens discovering over 200 acres of Zostera beds which had not been previously recorded on any official data base.
These are dotted around the Irish coast from a tiny new Zostera noltii bed in Fingal, to a string of Zostera marina meadows in south Wexford, Bantry Bay Cork, mid Kerry around Fenit and in mid Clare.
There was also a "remarkable reduction" in marine litter reported, with improvement spread over most litter categories. The percentage of shores where one or more plastic bottle was seen has gone down for the sixth year running. The same has happened for drinks cans.
The 2021 findings were welcomed by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’ Brien. Earlier this month he met a Coastwatch delegation on the Malahide coastline in Co Dublin.
In a video message, he said he is establishing a new cross-government group, Project Marine, which will agree actions to address climate change in coastal zones, and enhance their carbon sink potential, while restoring and protecting biodiversity.
He also noted a reduction in single-use plastic litter and paid tribute to Coastwatch’s efforts through the use of volunteer citizen scientists which, he said, was increasing local biodiversity, charting climate change indications and discovering new seagrass areas and providing information for marine policy.