Lecale Conservation campaigned for thirteen years to get the Northern Ireland Ports Authority (NIPA) to take their duty seriously in stopping dumping from fishing boats, in particular on to the beach facing Ardglass Harbour, but also affecting all the beached along the Lecale coast with fishing rubbish. This involved many protests and meetings.

Since 2020, the situation has transformed with the new harbour master and team. Lecale member and local Councillor Cadogan Enright has praised the Harbour Authority.

Ardglass beach has to be the most cleaned beach in Ireland. In addition to nearly daily cleans by Harbour Authority staff, many other beach-clean groups have also adopted Ardglass.  My own Loch Cuan Canoe Club clean along the coast past Phennick Cove, the Protect our Pristine Shores group with Pamela Neill from Bangor does monthly cleans as do the Fitzsimons family. Ardglass Primary School has done so as well. The Alliance party organised two beach cleans here in recent times and during 2021 my good friend Gerry Casey was still doing regular cleans before his untimely death last December.”

Chris Feenan agreed and said; “Our community group ‘Ardglass Collect-it’ including Barry Kearney and my own wife Georgina do a morning clean around the Harbour to ensure no litter is blown from the roads around the Harbour to the beach”

Chris Feenan is Deputy Harbour Master in Ardglass and works for NI Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA) who manage NI’s commercial fishing harbours. Chris identified the top 10 items found on beaches as mostly plastic shop bought items like plastic bottles, e-cigs and food containers in addition to cans and glass bottles.

Chris said; “The Keep NI Tidy report confirms that fishing gloves have been declining year on year. This has been a big focus for us in Ardglass. Plastics are having an impact on our fisheries. Official estimates project that by 2025 the oceans will contain one metric ton of plastic for every three metric tons of fish. By 2050 plastic will outweigh fish entirely. This has implications for the eco-system and food chain in the seas.”

“NIFHA in 2021 hired and environmental officer called Jenny Lau who has been engaged in several projects. Under the Fishing for Litter Scheme, when fishing crew catch litter in their nets, they put it in a bag and land it where it is disposed of responsibly. Fishing boats are uniquely placed to actively remove litter offshore. The report notes that approximately 40 boats are registered in NI with more taking part informally. In 2021, they removed 5.7 tonnes of litter from the sea. Education projects in local schools and fishing crews have been ongoing for some time with funding secured for cleaning equipment in the harbour.”

Cadogan commended NIFHA staff and Chris Feenan in particular, for the focus on ‘Clean Seas’ in recent years. “Local people will recall I used to campaign on the state of the Harbour and its beach and highlight lack of effort by the Harbour Authorities to tackle the issue. But I have nothing but praise for their efforts now.