Thursday, November 02, 2023

BEACH WATCH: Palm oil, decimated dunes and a no-fun foam party

QUICK - GRAB THE LIFE BELT! Wading through the putrid sea foam on Warkworth beach

Like many people who live near the coast I am fiercely protective of ‘my’ bit of beach.

But excursions to Warkworth on the Northumberland coast in the past week have brought sadness, disappointment and even some anger.

As if the ravages of Storm Babet were not enough, leaving the dunes looking dangerously undermined, the piles of ‘sea foam’ that followed were, to use the technical word – yucky.

Wading through the waist high spume was a dispiriting experience. Dirty, smelly and difficult to remove from clothes and boots.

Just some of the 'vegetation' washed up on the beach

Ok, so far, so maybe unavoidable. But the arrival of chunks of palm oil on these wild and beautiful Northumberland beaches WAS preventable.

Further up the coast Newton and Embleton beaches were actually closed while Northumberland County Council removed the oil, but no such luck for Warkworth and Alnmouth further south.

The council reports that palm oil can get into the marine environment when it is legally released at sea by ships when vessels wash out their tanks. But goes on to say: “The resulting substances are often mixed with other chemicals such as diesel, making it extremely harmful if ingested.”  

Hmmm. Tell that to the dogs who became ill after tucking in to the stuff that looks like white wax, even though it has a horrid smell.

There are also piles of vegetable matter on the beach along with plastics and fishing debris that are caught up in it plus a more than usual number of dead sea birds.

I confess it’s not an easy place to get to with any kind of machinery for a clear-up so along with other like-minded beach friends we do our best to pile up the detritus in then hope that it won’t get spread all over the beach and sea again.

I am pleased to have contributed to a book called ‘TOXIC NEWS? Covering Climate Change’ which is officially launched on Monday (Dec 6). Perhaps they could squeeze in another late chapter….

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