'No-one taking responsibility for our coasts,' says group founder
The man responsible for creating the Wexford Estuary Clean Coasts Group (WECGG) has said he was moved to act because no-one was 'taking responsibility' for managing Wexford's coastline.
Emmet Fahy set up the group two years ago and, having initially ploughed a lone furrow, has seen its numbers swell to over 80 people. 'Plastic waste and fishing waste in the sea is now an international news story and the interest from people has been phenomenal,' he explained. 'We have grown from a membership of less than five, to over 80 people. Depending on the location different people turn up at each event, but our volunteers come from all over the county.'
Every month the group organises a clean-up at a different location and its last meet saw its members descend upon Rosslare Small Harbour. Collecting 16 bags of rubbish and other larger items, the group discovered significant fishing waste; nets, containers, and litter in boxes which were too heavy to move.
'The Harbour is owned by Iarnród Éireann, but used by numerous local boating enthusiasts, fishermen and the local sea scouts,' said Emmet. 'However, it was noticeable the amount of stuff apparently abandoned around the harbour. We have been in touch with the Iarnród Éireann official responsible for the area and he promised to investigate further.'
And this is not the first time the group have been forced to make such an enquiry.
'No-one is taking responsibility for managing the coast to minimise the effect of people on the environment,' Emmet stated. 'Different estuaries and harbours are the responsibility of different agencies and local authorities. But they don't appear to talk to each other. Wexford county council, via the harbour master, is responsible for the main harbour, but the other smaller areas in and around Wexford, where boats are moored, appear to go unsupervised. Until we came along some of these areas had never been cleaned up; at least not for years,' he said.
Citing a case in Ferrycarrig, where the group found dozens of tyres placed in the water, apparently by crab fishermen, Emmet said that the Council and Environmental Protection Agency have said the placing of tyres in the estuary is an issue; but not for them. 'We're in touch with the Department of Agriculture and Marine to establish who will deal with this illegal activity,' he added.
Ultimately however, Emmet says the group's aim is to 'work closely with the local council, local fishermen and boating enthusiasts to help develop a culture of respect for the local estuary environment.'
The WECGG's next clean-up takes place on June 6.