Detonation cord from the USA?

At first glance this 3mm diameter plastic cord or line looks like any other piece of marine debris washed up on our British coastline. Potentially from the fishing or shipping industries, but taking a closer look it seems a little different, stronger and more akin to strimmer line. What would strimmer line be doing in the marine environment, would it come from gardens backing onto beaches?

Take an even closer look and you discover the texture is very rough, strimmer line is usually smooth. And the final observation to discount all previous theories is that it is a tube! There is a hole all through each piece, whether yellow, orange or (rarely purple or green). This is nothing like anything we had observed before. Some research was needed.

With a little investigation, we were able to find out more from Laura Ludwig at the Centre for Coastal Studies (shown in the image above).

And here’s the timeline…

First noted as a new item washing up on south coast beaches in October 2022 – Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex

Discovered as a new item washed up by Strandliners in January 2023 at Dungeness, East Sussex

More than 50 pieces (between 3.5 & 35 inches in length) recorded on Brighton beach in November 2022

Recorded at Newhaven beach in March 2023 for the #PreventingPlasticPollution project with the @TheRiversTrust.

Identified in April 2023 as ‘explosive shock tubing’, it was used to transmit a charge to underwater explosives during a Boston Harbour dredging project that ran from June 2021 to January 2022.

Multiple records at every beach litter survey with Strandliners in East Sussex and Kent from throughout 2023, and by other beach cleaners who ask questions of what is found.

Hold on though! There is another potential source but the timing is not right. The Rampion Wind Farm was constructed off the Sussex coast and opened in 2018. Shock tubing may have been used in the construction but if the shock tubing we are finding is from the wind farm construction, why was there a 4 year delay for it to travel the 10 to 50 km? And the tubing is very abraded, more than a 10 to 50km journey’s worth of washing around the ocean!

Here is a Citizen Science project used for recording where these waste pieces of plastic are washing up. The aim is to use the data to encourage the U.S Army Corps to change systems so that there can be a reduced environmental impact.

Here is the reason why we are all part of the cause of this American explosive shock tubing polluting the south east England coastline:

1 – Why was it used in the first place?
To deepen the harbour at Boston Harbour, Massachusetts.
2 – Why did Boston Harbour need to be made deeper?
To allow a greater percentage of New England cargo to be shipped through the Port of Boston, rather than through the ports of New York and New Jersey, and permit larger fleets of greater TEU container ships to use the channel without delays due to tides.
3 – Why do larger fleets of container ships need to enter Boston Harbour?
Container ships hold thousands of containers full of consumer goods. These ships now carry up to 25,000 containers around the world from port to port. But the larger the ship the larger and deeper the port needs to be. Most ports were able to continue being a destination for the transit of containers without the need of underwater quarrying (dredging in some form is usual) until these ships became so large.
4 – Why are these container ships increasing in size?
The global market for consumer goods is increasing – we demand a greater choice of goods from all over the world.
5 – How are we connected with larger container ships?
90% of all we own has once been in a container. The more things we buy, the more things are made, the more things made require larger means of transport. Many of the things we buy are part of a global trade. When we click ‘buy now’, do we consider the impact of the fossil fuel used to transport that item to us – up to 300 tons of fuel per ship per day – and the pollution it causes?

What can we do?
We can reduce the impact of container ships and our global consumerism by choosing to buy local wherever possible. Local trade of local things made from local raw materials reduces the need for these increasingly larger and larger container ships and will reduce the pollution of their travel.

Did you know?
Up to 2019, 300 to 2,000 containers are lost at sea every year, through extreme weather conditions and an increased urgency by the ship owners for global deliveries to be quicker and quicker. Between Nov 2020 and Jan 2021 alone, 2,675 containers were lost overboard!

The contents of the containers are unknown to us, and don’t even need to be reported, unless the contents are toxic or the container is a hazard to shipping.


Christmas Challenge

Back in May 2022, Greenpeace encouraged us to record all the packaging we threw away over a period of a week. Almost a quarter of a million people took part and recorded nearly 6,500,000 items.

The Strandliners challenge…

We are asking you to record all the packaging you dispose of as a family over the Christmas week – from 24th to 31st December (whatever the material) and tell whether it was thrown away, recycled, or kept for reuse, and send the results to Strandliners. This includes food and household packaging, gift wrapping and so on. We are asking all our subscribers to do this as well. 

There is no blame attached to this survey. All the results will be completely anonymous – we are just curious about how much extra waste we all produce at Christmas and may repeat the activity in summer to see what the difference is. We will join in too, and can’t wait to see the results.

How do I record my results?

You can just make a note with pencil and paper, keeping a tally on a daily basis, or you can use a simple spreadsheet, like the one here (with a few examples). Then at the end of the week, email your results to us.

How do I know what can be recycled in my area?

Check your local council for details. In Rother, for example, you can find the recycling page here.

How can I tell whether my Christmas wrapping paper can be recycled?

Foil or glittery paper can’t be recycled, so put it in the bin. As a rule of thumb, if you scrunch it up and it stays scrunched, then it can be recycled. Remove any bows, ribbons and as much sticky tape as possible. If it springs open again, it probably contains a plastic layer, so put it in the bin.

You can make a difference in the weeks leading up to Christmas by choosing to buy paper that can be recycled.


Wallowbird Film Project

How did we come to this?

A year ago, Strandliners started working with a film crew on a project that has become known as Wallowbird, a short documentary film examining plastic pollution in the UK.  The Strandliners River Rother clean-up and brand audit was only a very small part of this film, but we are pleased to be able to tell the story.

Lost or discarded waste washed up in the River Rother strandline.

The River Rother in East Sussex is a tidal river with saltmarsh and grassy upper banks. With stormy weather coinciding with spring high tides much mismanaged waste is stranded along with much organic material from upstream.

Wildlife are at home here.
Small groups of volunteers steadily collected everything manmade from the strandline.
Heavy loads wheeled back and then dropped off at a local industrial unit.




North American Fishing Tags

Transatlantic fishing tags and licences

These coloured plastic tags, lost from ships or fishing gear, can be found on the strandline. Some are local (Sussex IFCA), but some have travelled on transatlantic currents to find their way to our shores in the same way as sea beans. In the image above you can see lobster trap tags from the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. & Canada. They are used as fishing licences for every fishing person and for every trap used. These may be renewed every year, or may be multi-year tags. Generally, single year tags are a specific colour. For example, in Atlantic fishing areas from 1 April, 2022 to 31 March 2023, the colour will be purple for Newfoundland and Labrador. Multiyear plastic tags must currently be white. There are regulations for the replacement of lost tags, which should be strictly controlled. 

The letters and numbers show the location and sea area, date, and species (lobster, crab etc.) the tags have been used for.

ME = Maine
MA = Massachusetts
RI = Rhode Island
C = Connecticut
D = Delaware
M = Maryland
NH = New Hampshire
NFLD = Newfoundland

Fishing licence

A fishing licence, issued to the fisher person, gives the name of the fishing vessel, and often includes the name (and even the telephone number!) of the fisherman. Some are in remarkably good condition, considering their age. A surprising amount of information was found about the licence above, which was found locally.

Have you found any of these tags? Strandliners is creating a database of tags found on the Kent and Sussex coast. We need information including, if possible…

What it is? (does it need identifying?)
Any photo available?
Location, where found (nearest town, beach/riverbank, lower beach, strandline or back of beach)
Date (day or season and year)
Size (width x height)

Please email with any records, historic included, of these special treasures.


Sea Beans

A variety of sea beans

Sea bean is the name given to a drift seed. That is a seed that can float and drift on the ocean surface driven by the currents and wind, to be washed ashore on a distant beach. The Sea bean website ( is a good resource, as is the book ‘Sea-Beans from the Tropics’ by Ed Perry IV and John V. Dennis. Some are not beans at all, but fruits that contain seeds.

In the UK there are local seeds that float and can drift a short distance down a river or along the coast. We find conkers (Horse Chestnut), hazelnuts, acorns and beech mast on the strandline, especially in autumn. Some seeds we find, like peach and avocado stones, may have been discarded by beach visitors. We also find sea kale seeds, which use the wind and sea to disperse. These seeds would only survive a short time in the salt water and still be viable. 

But then you come to the true sea beans, and it is these that have spectacular journeys. The most common ones that wash up on the northwest coastline of Europe are transatlantic travellers and will have started their journey in Tropical America or the Caribbean. They drop to the ground from a vine or bush, into a watercourse or when rain floods the ground, they float out to the ocean. They can float for up to 30 years (research still ongoing!) and drift on the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift to eventually land on our beaches. To do this, they must have hard, impermeable coats and contain air pockets to enable them to float.

While commonly found in Florida, they are scarce on the west coast of Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall (maybe 1,000 to 5,000 recorded in each area from 1690 to 1990), and incredibly rare on the southeast of England (under 10 recorded from 1690 to 1990).  

Sea beans have been drifting across the Atlantic since time immemorial but plastic from the Americas also follows the same currents. Transatlantic plastic is a very important constituent of beach and plastic pollution as non-native species can hitch hike across the Atlantic Ocean and land on our shores, with the potential to cause an imbalance of our own fragile marine and coastal ecosystems.

We think seven sea beans have been found recently by volunteers on Strandliners surveys. Surveys are one of the best ways to find them as they involve close scrutiny of what has washed in. 

But we would like to know what you have found so that we can create a Strandliners database of sea bean discoveries on the southeast coastline. Could you tell us what you found, where and when you found it, with a photograph if possible.

We need information including, if possible…
What it is? (Does it need identifying?)
A photo
Location, where found (beach/riverbank, lower, strandline or back?)
Date (day or season and year)
Size (“diameter x height” or “width x height x depth”?)

Please email with any records, historic included, of these special treasures.


What’s that lurking just around the corner?

Originally posted October 2015.

If you go down to the beach today, it looks amazing.

This is Cliff End at Pett Level, East Sussex, the beach my parents first took me to many many years ago. Wildlife includes Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) at the eastern edge of their breeding distribution along the English Channel, Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) spying from the cliff tops, the occasional common seal (Phoca vitulina) fishing in the shallows and of course many species of marine organisms in the pools, in the sand and mud, on the rocks, everywhere.

In front of the cliff there’s the submerged mixed forest that was flooded and flattened by rising sea levels around 5000 years ago. And nearby the wreck of the HMS Anne lies, run aground and set alight in the aftermath of the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. What an amazing place to live.

On the surface it seems untouched, blissful, wildlife-full, historical.


Just around the headland is a sign of modern times.

Two berms have been constructed to protect the cliff which has been crumbling consistently into the sea.

Behind which a trash lagoon is building up.

How much trash is here? Too much.

Where has it come from? The sea has put it there, but much has originated from land based activities. And all from human activities.

What trash is there? Plastic single use items – bottles etc, remains of fishing equipment – nets, ropes, traps etc. Polystyrene pieces in their million from packaging, fishing boxes etc. Sewage related items – cotton bud sticks, tampon applicators, wet wipes etc that have been flushed! And much much more.

This trash lagoon is only accessible at low tide after a 30 minute walk (potentially in danger of being cut off), and so not too many people may know it is there, assuming their local beach is as clear as in the top photo.

One positive outcome is that it has been taken out of the sea and won’t be endangering marine animals. But what of the strandline animals living where the land meets the sea?

What can be done? This post is not the end.


18th August 2020
Strandliners has organised a project to clean up this bay in partnership with the Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat.

Volunteers and members from the Strandliners-trained Community Action Team are involved in their first post-COVID lockdown beach surveys and clean ups from August 27th 2020. They will visit seven times in small groups to bag up the rubbish and sort into polystyrene, plastic bottles etc by volume and weight.

For more information please see our Fairlight Berm page.