The Marine Conservation Society works tirelessly to protect British seas, beaches and coastlines. And with litter levels rising year on year (6% up from last year) their work has never been more important in helping to safeguard our future environment.
A day in the life of Lizzie
Beach Clean and Conservation Administrator from Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Lizzie, tell us how your interest in marine conservation first came about?
Well I didn’t grow up near the sea so marine conservation wasn’t really something that I knew anything about until I was faced with choosing which course to take at university.
I thought Environmental Science sounded really interesting and fortunately, it was! As part of my course I got to go diving in UK seas and explore the fascinating marine life I never even knew was there. It’s eye-opening to discover just how much lives below the surface of our seas, and how people are destroying these ecosystems without even knowing it.
I was hooked from here on out, and went on to complete a Masters in Marine and Environmental Management in York; working as a volunteer Sea Champion for four years before joining the Marine Conservation Society in March this year.
Can you name one defining moment that made you realise you were doing something truly great for marine conservation?
After graduating from Plymouth University I decided to go travelling around the Philippines which is home to one of the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet. I volunteered with Zoox and spent my days diving and working with local fishermen; educating them about the importance of fishing safely and sustainably, and explaining the catastrophic consequences on ‘society and sea’ of damaging marine life.
One older fisherman who’d been fishing in the Philippine seas for his entire life came up to me on my final day and gave me a hug to say thank you. He explained in Filipino how grateful he was to me for helping them safeguard the future of their seas and land for their grandchildren.
When people really appreciate what you’re doing – that’s simply the best feeling.
What’s the most memorable thing you’ve done so far with the Marine Conservation Society?
That has to be my beach cleaning road trip.
On 18th September I set out from Newport with my Dad and my partner on what will now be known as the ‘Great Welsh Beach Cleaning Road Trip! ‘
Our aim was to hit as many beaches as possible over four days; meeting volunteers along the way and reaching out to local people to raise awareness of the importance of beach conservation and gain supporters for future Beach Cleans.
There are a few UK coastal areas where we lack key data insights owing to a lack of volunteers. These insights help us gauge the conditions of beaches, seas and marine life, and inform the work we do. The aim of this trip was to try and get more volunteers on board to help us tackle a few of these areas. We wanted to give local people a real demonstration of what Beach Cleans involve, and be on hand to answer any questions.
We visited a total of seven beaches and were met with such a great response from everyone we came across; families with children, couples, older people and local workers. In fact some people we met followed us on our drive and came to more than one Beach Clean.
It isn’t until you look closely at beaches that you realise how much we are damaging them.
As a result of the trip, we’ve gained a volunteer in the form of Park Ranger Alan, who will now help us conduct annual beach cleans in the Lydstep Haven area in Pembrokeshire, and Bernie a retired gentleman from Swansea Bay, so a huge thanks and welcome goes out to them.
What’s the strangest thing you came across on your road trip?
We seem to find quite a few pairs of false teeth actually – in general, not just in Wales. It paints quite a humorous picture of elderly people roaming the seas without their gnashers!
What have you learnt so far from your time with the Marine Conservation Society?
Without a doubt, it has to be just how important our volunteers are.
They are the true unsung heroes of this entire operation and without their support, the work we do wouldn’t be possible; there’d be no data to work from.
Some of our volunteers have been helping out for more than 20 years, and some even conducted Beach Cleans before they became official events. These guys really know their stuff and deserve a huge thank you.
What’s the one message you’d like to shout from the rooftops in support of your cause?
Everyone should know that as an individual, you can do something to make a positive change.
Even though all these marine environment issues sound big, one person making small changes can make a huge difference.
Even if it’s just reducing the use of single-use plastic, disposing things correctly or just spreading the word about these little things to friends and family can make a real difference. It’s really important that people know how much power they have to help us make a greater change.
Find out about Savoo’s day volunteering with the Marine Conservation Society and how you can help.