Skip to main content

    Beach litter survey, Signy Island, South Orkney Islands 1994/95

    Request Meeting Document
    Document Number:
    Delegation of the United Kingdom
    Agenda Item(s)

    A beach litter survey was carried out on Signy Island, South Orkney Islands during the 1994/95 austral summer. Similar surveys were carried out during the four previous summers. Debris was cleared from three study beaches, Foca Cove, Cummings Cove and Starfish Cove, in December 1994, and February, March and April 1995 and items were identified, counted, weighed and any clues regarding their origin noted. At Foca Cove, a total of 91 items were found with a combined weight of 18.26 kg. At Cummings Cove, a total of 90 items were found (22.79 kg) and at Starfish Cove, a total of 27 items were found (11.23 kg).
    It is clear that almost all beached debris originates from accidental or deliberate dumping of rubbish from ships or discarded gear from fishing vessels, rather than from either of the scientific research stations in the South Orkney Islands. For example, only six of the 208 items recovered (< 3%) were positively identified as originating from the British Antarctic Survey Research Station on Signy Island.
    The beach litter surveys carried out in 1990/91, 1991/92 and 1992/93 showed a steady reduction in both the weight of debris and the total number of found on all three study beaches. This trend was reversed in 1993/94. The results from 1994/95 are again higher than those recorded in 1992/93. Of particular concern was that the total number of plastic items found remained high. However, the composition of plastic items has changed considerably since 1992/93, with a steady reduction in the percentage of packaging bands. Unfortunately, many of the bands found during 1994/95 had not been cut, as required by CCAMLR Conservation Measure (63/XII).
    It had been hoped that the annual surveys would reveal a major and sustained decline in the incidence of marine litter found at Signy as ships complied with international regulations designed to protect the Southern Ocean (e.g. CCAMLR Recommendations, IMO Antarctic Special Area requirements! Annex IV of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty). This has, unfortunately, not yet been the case.