I am writing this blog article on the effects of marine pollution because my eyes were opened this year when I visited the bird cliffs of Heligoland and especially the colonies on the western cliffs. It is difficult to describe my feelings at that time. Somehow I was depressed and on the other hand I felt outrage. Though, against whom, I certainly didn’t know.
What I saw were not only Gannets breeding on debris, the remnants of fishing nets, packing material and nearly everything they brought home from the seas, apart from seaweeds. The following image shows the spot where I first came across the effects of marine pollution:
First I only saw the huge amounts of what used to be fishing nets in several kinds of colour, mainly reddish, blue, brown even some in green. The nets were hanging down the cliffs and I still really wonder how the birds managed to bring such large pieces of net from the sea to the cliffs. It was more upon second sight that I realised that there were a number of dead seabirds haning in the nets. Some had already decayed but were still hanging in the nets. Quite obviously, once caught in the nets, these birds are unable to free themselves and keep hanging there until death occurs. Dreadful! The amazing thing is that birds breeding on the ledges don’t give a thing on the corpses hanging there. Death seems to be sort of normality in their lifes.
On the other hand, no-one of the people wandering around on top of the cliffs seemed to notice and if any, no-one cared. This seems to be a general problem of our time. People simply don’t notice. When on a walkabout in nature, people chat with each other but take in the beauty of nature.
How come that used fishing nets are plastered all over the place. On the one hand this is natural wear and tear in the fishing industry. Fishing nets tend to tear and get lost. We all eat fish and certainly this is the way things go. With us inventing ever-lasting materials we must also live with the fact that these materials don’t rot. Gannets are experts in collecting nest material and everything looking interesting is collected and brought to the nest. Matter-of-factly gannets are curious animals and obviously are attracted to colourful material. The following image shows a lovely scene and upon second sight we can clearly see that the birds are breeding on piles of rubbish. The blessings of progress. It also highlights that rubbish and pollution brought to the oceans will finally be washed up on the shores.
Anyway. Could something be done to remedy the situation? When looking at bird cliffs one thing becomes clear: Cliffs on the shore are mostly really steep, rocky and the rock is mostly brittle and dangerous. Would it be possible to remove all the plastics material, nets and lines from the cliff? As a former rock climber I would say basically yes. But: it is a suicide mission. Even abseiling form top of the cliff is a most dangerous undertaking because the cliff face could collaps at any time.
The above image is another example of rubbish in seabird colonies. This article only wants to shed some light on an aspect of marine pollution. It is our responsibility as human race to look after our planet and the environment to preserve it for later generations.
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