Beach clean-up on Saadiyat Island nets more than 150kg of plastic waste

Volunteers clear sands of plastic pellets before turtle nesting season begins

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A beach clean-up by volunteers, to help prepare for the Hawksbill turtle nesting season on Saadiyat Island, has cleared 156 kilograms of rubbish.

The clearance was attended by Dr Hind Al Ameri, assistant scientist in marine species, who leads the marine turtle conservation programme at Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi.

More than 400 people took part in the programme, led by Cranleigh Abu Dhabi schoolteacher Simon Johnson, with some also entering a five-kilometre fun run on the beach that was cleared.

They removed microplastics, traffic cones, debris from boats, building materials and general shipping, which had washed up on parts of the idyllic beaches near Jumeirah Saadiyat International Resort, where Mr Johnson also hosts a regular running club.

He said among the tiny plastic bits were nurdles. The pre-production pellets are the size of a small pea and a menace to the world’s oceans.

“Once you know what you are looking for the small plastics are easy to spot,” he said.

“We collected around 5,000-10,000 of these small nurdles, they are a raw material used in plastic manufacturing.”

In 2021, one of the worst maritime environmental disasters of recent years occurred when the X-Press Pearl container ship caught fire and sank off Sri Lanka, spilling about 1,680 tonnes of plastic pellets into the Indian Ocean.

The effects are still being felt around the world, with plastic washing up on beaches such as those around Saadiyat.

Beaches there are home to several turtle nesting areas, with four productive nests situated on the Jumeirah Saadiyat resort, one which yielded some 95 hatchlings in 2022.

The small balls of plastic used for manufacturing are confused by the turtles for fish eggs, and one ingested can have devastating consequences.

“The turtle nesting season is April to July but the plastic content of the beach was still quite high,” said Mr Johnson.

“During the season I work closely with the Environment Agency to patrol the beach to check on the turtles. Jumeirah has a strong environmental image so it is a good message to promote.

“We covered an area of around 5.5km from east to west, so the majority of the beach was cleared.

“In 2020, we collected 60kg of rubbish, so this year we picked up significantly more, which had washed up.”

Updated: January 23, 2023, 4:14 AM