Civil Air Support Photographic Mission Surveys Beach Cleaning Target Areas in Scotland

Five trillion pieces of plastic debris have found their way into seas and onto beaches around the world, threatening the health of users and damaging the marine biodiversity that depends upon unpolluted sea and shores for survival. It’s a global problem but perhaps there’s a local solution. Through marine education, beach monitoring and community cleaning projects, stakeholders are working together to remove increasingly damaging litter from vulnerable beaches.

As part of one such initiative, Civil Air Support has been engaged by the Moray Firth Coastal Partnership to support its ‘Our Firth, Our Seashore’ (OFOS) project. OFOS aims to promote community group engagement and empower local communities to take ownership of their coastal environment in the Highlands of Scotland.

OFOS reflects a similar Civil Air Support endeavour in 2018 & 2019 when the ‘Scotland’s Coastal Rubbish Aerial Photography’ (SCRAPbook) initiative used aerial photography collected by the aviation charity’s aircraft to produce a snapshot of macro litter distribution around the coast of mainland Scotland, Mull, and Orkney.

For the current OFOS project, Civil Air Support pilots and observers have been asked to photograph the coastline of the Moray Firth this year, and again in 2023 following beach cleaning work to provide ‘before and after’ imagery. In this way the impact of local beach cleaning activities can be measured and used to support the strategic planning of similar initiatives in the future.

The most recent observation mission saw a Jabiru 400 high-wing aircraft piloted by Civil Air Support Operations Manager David W Brown cover some 80 miles of coastline between Golspie and Dunnet Head. During the mission flight which lasted approximately 2 hours 40 minutes, experienced Civil Air Support observer Paul Horth captured 4k video of the entire coastline from 500 feet, together with some 2300 high resolution digital photographs.

Commenting on the mission, pilot David W Brown reports that the effect of beach cleaning in the region appears to be having a positive impact “We’ll know more once the imagery is analysed by the Moray Firth Coastal Partnership but our overall impression during the flight was of reduced pollution since we last surveyed this coast in 2018”.

A mission of this kind requires a collaborative approach to be taken by several organisations, not only Civil Air Support and the Moray Firth Coastal Partnership but extending to include air traffic agencies in Scotland and Inverness Airport who were kind enough to waive landing and handling fees. Also essential to the ultimate success of the project of course, are the many hundreds of volunteers who give their time to venture out onto the beaches and apply themselves to those cleaning activities which although unpleasant, are essential to the preservation of our maritime environment.

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