GIANT efforts to tackle Marine Litter

Local marine volunteers gathering rubbish from the Litter Pick at Sea

National Trust staff, local volunteers and local marine businesses from the Causeway coast area joined together and braved the waters around the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site on Wednesday 1 May for their third litter pick at sea, organised by the conservation Rangers at the National Trust.

The large scale conservation operation involved two boats, two jet skis, and paddle boards to get closer into the bays around the Giant’s Causeway site that are inaccessible by land.  Eight volunteers from Causeway Coasteering  jumped straight in, swimming  to the bays collecting the litter washed ashore; through the waves  they hauled tractor tyres, lobster pots, fishing ropes and plastic bottles back to the boats via jetskis Local ranger Christie Greer organised the first litter pick at sea in 2018 after the National Trust team had growing concerns for the  increasing amounts of litter gathering on the remote beaches, noticeable from the cliff top paths enjoyed by many tourists close to the iconic Giant’s Causeway attraction.


The National Trust, Europe’s leading conservation charity conduct daily litter picks on land, but in their commitment to maintaining special places that matter to local people,  the National Trust team at the Giant’s Causeway thought of a proactive, innovative way to tackle rising volumes of marine pollution in a bid to  protect the natural habitats and the incredible variety of wildlife in the area.

Pitching in to help with the litter pick
Swimmer, jet skiiers and small boats helping with the litter pick
Pitching in to help with the litter pick

 The second litter pick at sea in August 2018 was a great success for the teams involved as they gathereda staggering  two tonnes of marine litter from the shores, which caused a wave in the media. This year ITV were keen to capture an exclusive piece for national news and learn exactly what it takes to be a National Trust Ranger taking care of the coastline. Also, The National Geographic personally lead by Dr Cliff Henry, Area Ranger filmed along the cliff path to capture a land perspective of the operation which will contribute towards their series ‘Europe from Above’.  

A gathering of marine pollution from the Litter Pick at sea
Litter Pick at sea, picture shows a gathering of marine pollution
A gathering of marine pollution from the Litter Pick at sea

Commenting on the exemplary efforts of all teams involved National Trust NI Coastal Officer, Fiona Bryant said; “The National Trust, which cares for 22 percent of Northern Ireland’s coastline, has teams of rangers who work daily to protect and nurture plant and wildlife along our beaches and cliffs. This was a mission with a difference because the conservation ranger teams have gone to incredible lengths to rid litter from parts of the coastline that are difficult, and even dangerous to access.”


She warned of the dangers of plastic pollution in the sea to wildlife; “We know the long-term effect of plastic and litter on marine life is negative and is having a detrimental effect on the rich marine environment in beautiful places like the Giant’s Causeway where we saw dolphins and oyster catchers yesterday.”


“We would encourage visitors to National Trust places to help us tackle this issue by joining in with our litter picks on land in places such as Murlough National Nature Reserve, Strangford Lough and Whitepark Bay, bringing their own litter home when they visit or having their own beach clean and lifting any plastics items they find on the sites when they are there as part of their day trip. Ranger teams and volunteers work 364 days of the year on Portstewart Strand lifting litter as well!”

A breakdown of litter gathered from the 2019 Litter Pick at Sea at the Giant's Causeway
A breakdown of litter gathered from the 2019 Litter Pick at Sea at the Giant's Causeway
A breakdown of litter gathered from the 2019 Litter Pick at Sea at the Giant's Causeway


The National Trust has already eliminated plastic from its disposable cups and cutlery, instead choosing plant based biodegradable products as part of the conservation charity’s commitment to phase out selling single use plastics at its places by 2022.