Coastwatch Seeks Volunteers For 30th Annual Coastal Survey

Published by Dan Connell on

September 11th, 2017

Leading marine NGO Coastwatch are looking for volunteers to get involved in its annual international citizen science campaign, the Coastwatch shore survey.

Currently celebrating its 30th year, the survey was first designed and run in Ireland in 1987. It now runs across 23 European countries.

Designed to give an overview of the state of the coast, the All-Ireland Coastwatch survey is based on an examination of 275km of Irish coastline conducted across 1,000 sites by over 2,000 Coastwatch volunteers each year.

Each ‘survey site’ is a stretch of shore roughly 500m long. At low-tide, volunteers walk their chosen site, from land to the water’s edge, noting down observations of shore life, as well as any signs of waste, litter, and human activity.

The information is then sent back to Coastwatch and combined with all the other surveys to obtain an overall ‘snapshot’ of the coast.

“This data can then be used with official data to better monitor our shores and seas and take action where needed on both specific site issues highlighted and on wider policy,” explained Karin Dubsky, co-founder of Coastwatch.

Coastwatch surveys contribute to official knowledge of the coast. Results have been included in environmental reports such as the North Western Waters (NWW) Marine Atlas, a joint publication between the Marine Institute and the NWW Advisory Council.

The NWW area is situated in the north east Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland and Scotland. It extends into the Celtic Sea, Irish Sea and the English Channel and covers approximately 1.15 million km2.

Survey methods have naturally adapted over time, with updates from paper maps to modern GIS, and alignment to EU water laws, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and Water Frame Directive (WFD).

As such, Coastwatch says that 2017 is to be a “transition year” where new methods and materials are being tried in different countries, albeit with “common base questions” which will ultimately be pooled for an overall European report.

“The survey has evolved, but not beyond recognition”, said Ms Dubsky. “Mobile phone, apps and input programs make capturing and reporting information easy, and it can be passed on to the right body for quick action.”

The All-Ireland survey starts on 15th September and runs through to 15th October. Special initiatives planned for the Coastwatch 2017 survey in Ireland focus on water quality of small inflows, supported by the EPA.

Survey questionnaires, guide notes, and ID posters for key intertidal flora and fauna can be downloaded from the Coastwatch website.

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Dan Connell

Daniel is a journalist and contributor to Green News, whose focus is on marine conservation and environmental issues. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Marine Science from NUI Galway.