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Coastwatch Appeals for Volunteers for Annual Month-Long National Shore Survey

17th September 2022
On the Waterford estuary, Dollar Bay surveyors used kayaks to get to inaccessible shores and could track how far the honeycomb reef extended along the shore
On the Waterford estuary, Dollar Bay surveyors used kayaks to get to inaccessible shores and could track how far the honeycomb reef extended along the shore Credit: John Cullen

Coastwatch has appealed for volunteers to join its annual autumn shore survey, which runs from mid-September to mid-October.

“This is now one of the longest standing citizen science projects in Ireland,” Coastwatch founder Karin Dubsky says.

” It’s a basic eco-audit of the shore carried out around low tide between Sept 15th and Oct 15th,” she says.

“You can go out as a group, divide tasks between you and cover long dune stretches in one sweep, having fun at the same time; or you go in pairs or alone to a favourite quiet spot,” Dubsky explains.

The Dublin Bay shoreline will be part of the Coastwatch survey Photo: Karin DubsyThe Dublin Bay shoreline will be part of the Coastwatch survey Photo: Karin Dubsy

“Either way, you are carefully observing, testing any streams you might cross and then report back on the state of that shore,” she says.

The annual citizen science audit started in 1987, with The Irish Times publishing a pull-out survey page.

It is now largely online with an accessible GIS map to choose sites to survey once between Sept 15th and Oct 15th, Dubsky says.

Volunteers book their site on an interactive map and download materials, or ask Coastwatch for these, Dubsky says.

They can “zig-zag” their chosen 500m of shore around low tide to record and report their findings from erosion to stream water quality, using test kits, and record key animals and plants along with waste and litter, she explains.

Micro litter can also be recorded, using a Coastwatch developed app, Dubsky says.

The first results will be presented in early December at Trinity College Dublin.

The Bull island lagoon, Dublin Bay with wet wipes close to an outflow pipe Photo: Gereon GuenterThe Bull island lagoon, Dublin Bay with wet wipes close to an outflow pipe Photo: Gereon Guenter

Dubsky says training is provided for new volunteers, and regional coordinators are planning joint survey events to cover some areas really well.

‘This year, we focus on the quality of small streams, seagrass and on litter which would be better addressed by prevention and law than by clean-ups,” Michael Walsh of the Coastwatch team says.

“Small coastal streams may not look impressive but can host fish like seatrout and eel,” John Cullen, one of the Coastwatch team scientists, explains.

“In a training session last week, we checked a tiny stream flowing through Tintern Abbey walled gardens, Co Wexford”, Dubsky says.

“It was full of life and young sea trout are regularly observed here. We would love to mark such streams with big smiley faces on our maps and help restore other streams which we find in a dead or sad state,” she says.

‘With bird flu hitting many seabird colonies, we are now also asking for photographs and to report dead birds to DAFM using the Avian Flu reporting app or hotline so they can pick up and test for flu,” she says.

This will be the third year of recording COVID-related litter, and the first full year since government restrictions on a range of single-use plastics (SUP) has been implemented.

A three-year snapshot of Covid-related litter and SUP plastic will be published in December, she said.

All materials are on the Coastwatch website www.coastwatch.org or available from coordinators.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.

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