Phelim Mac Cafferty: Protecting our city’s coastal environment

Phelim Mac Cafferty
Phelim Mac Cafferty

After warm weather granted me my first sea swim of 2017, I was pleased to join fantastic campaign group Surfers Against Sewage as they kick-started the great beach spring clean on our shoreline.

The group are taking on the estimated eight tonnes of plastic, sewage and other debris that washes up on our beaches each year.

More than 80 amazing volunteers were out on Hove seafront helping to litter pick, collecting everything from plastic bottles to clothes. In a few hours over 70kg of waste was collected- it’s frightening to think just how much more rubbish must lie off our city’s coastline.

While our beach may be widely known for its piers, I’m proud Greens pushed for the area to be recognised as a designated United Nations ‘Biosphere.’ This recognises our international importance as a place that promotes the relationship between people and nature. According to the Marine Conservation Society our coast is also home to rare, deep-water rocky habitats and reefs. Sadly studies show the growing threat our marine environment faces from pollution and litter. Traces of plastic are now found in almost a third of fish caught off British coastlines and alarmingly statistics suggest there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

Plastics don’t just damage the environment though: littering costs all of us billions a year. Although the Government has unveiled a welcome new litter strategy, it fails to take the radical action that is needed. As many of the regulations that protect our water have come from the European Union, Greens will be pushing the Government to honour environmental protection laws and take them even further as Brexit continues.

I’m pushing the council to implement a water refill scheme because at a local level we can reduce plastic usage and prevent it entering the sea. Even a seemingly harmless plastic straw is a huge problem. You can take the #StrawsAreForSuckers pledge at plasticfreepledge.com

There is no doubt that the beach is a unique part of our lives in Brighton and Hove. We must fight for it to be safe for both human and marine life alike.

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green Group on Brighton & Hove City Council.