October 2020

Seabean found; more survey dates; want to learn more about plastic pollution?

Strandliners volunteers have been busy getting back out to beach surveys and clean ups, albeit in a reduced capacity. The Fairlight berm project at Fairlight Cove was monumental, with hardly a pause picking up the mass of accumulated polystyrene, bottles and general rubbish. The surveys Strandliners undertake may be time-consuming but they produce the all-important information about pollution. This data is quantifiable evidence demonstrating the detail and is invaluable in helping lobby for change.  

In September we joined the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean and surveyed Pett Level, Winchelsea Beach and Dungeness. One eagle-eyed volunteer had a lucky find – see photos below for the ‘treasure’!
If anyone has a statistical mind, have you any ideas why the data collected shows anomalies? (See Table below)

We will be continuing with regular surveys and will keep to COVID-19 government guidelines current at the time. If any of you would like to join in, please sign up quickly as places are even more limited – groups are unavoidably small.

At the end of October there is the Marine Litter MOOC for anyone who would like to learn more about plastic pollution. It is run by the Dutch Open University and the United Nations Environment Programme amongst others.

Strandliners membership

We are currently reviewing the way people join or subscribe and by next month plan to launch Strandliners Membership! 

We hope to be offering… 
An expanded quarterly newsletter
A member’s portal on the website with exclusive access to information
Priority booking for events, including winter workshops – to gain beachcombing experience and skills
A free beach walk with Andy Dinsdale

The Marine Conservation Society has been collecting data on marine debris (beach rubbish!) since 1994. If we don’t have information about what is polluting our beaches it is difficult to lobby government & businesses for change and to educate the public and consumers. 
We need to know what the problem is, define, analyse and quantify.
Strandliners (and myself as an individual) have been undertaking the MCS surveys on marine debris since 2005 in the Rye Bay. This September we supported the Great British Beach Clean (yes, it says ‘clean’ but we also survey) at Pett Level, Winchelsea Beach and Dungeness. The data we collect goes to the MCS as part of the greater national event so that the annual snapshot of the health of our coastline can help illustrate the plastic pollution issue. This data is available to all and is a small part of the International Coastal Clean-up, which started in the U.S. in 1986 (the need for data was known back then!).

Here’s a brief summary of the breakdown from these surveys. Firstly 2020 data and then the 2019 data to compare.

2020Total weight kgTotal pieces% plastic% public% fishing% shipping
Pett Level1.117490%26%52%1%
Winchelsea Beach1.930561%61%21%3%
2019Total weight kgTotal pieces% plastic% public% fishing% shipping
Pett Level1.515755%55%26%3%
Winchelsea Beach3.525876%24%41%1%

We can begin to work out trends from this data for the Rye Bay, and then compare with the national data which should be out within a month.

But can anyone think why there may be such a great a change in proportion between 2019 and 2020 for both Pett Level and Winchelsea Beach? (look at % plastic, % public, % fishing)? We have some ideas but would love to hear your thoughts.

AND ONE OF THE STRANDLINERS VOLUNTEERS FOUND A SEA BEAN! A sea heart (Entada Gigas) that had dropped from the vine pod in Tropical America found its way into the ocean and floated across the Atlantic to eventually land on the south east coast. These are rare here, less than 100 recorded in 300 years!!!!

This is a sea heart (Entada gigas), commonly known as the monkey ladder vine found in Tropical America. This had had a long journey of 4,000 miles or many more! And maybe has a story to tell with the marks. We are awaiting the experts opinions of what has happened to cause the “puncture wounds”.

Your help needed!

We are surveying again! Dates to the end of the year.
Here are the up and coming Strandliners organised surveys and clean ups. 
Please email strandlinerscic@gmail.com stating preferred event/date and we will plan so that everyone can participate. As group sizes are limited we will aim for everyone to have a chance to join in at some point.

Dungeness (Lydd Ranges MOD) – Saturday 17th October, 2pm to 5.30pm – MCS 
Dungeness (Lydd Ranges MOD) – Saturday 14th November, 12noon to 3.30pm – MCS
Camber Sands – Nurdle, Biobead & Microplastic hunt – Sunday 15th November, 2pm to 4pm – (Great Nurdle Hunt, Fidra)
Dungeness (Lydd Ranges MOD) – Saturday 12th December, 9.30am to 1.30pm – MCS 

Of course if the COVID guidelines change we will adapt and at worst postpone these events.


This month – “Sea bean”

A sea bean is a name given to drift seeds. That is a seed that can float and drifts on the ocean surface driven by the currents and wind. The Seabean website is a good resource to discover more.

In the U.K. there are local seeds that float and can drift down a river or along the coast a short distance – we find conkers (Horse Chestnut), hazelnuts and sometime acorns and beach mast on the strandline, especially in autumn. But also we can find sea kale seeds which float and can use the sea to move to another area to be able to propagate. These seeds are short distance floaters and only the sea kale would survive the salt water and 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 North West of coastline on Europe are transatlantic travellers and will have started their journey in Tropical America. They drop to the ground from a vine or bush, either into a watercourse or wait for rain to flood the ground and then 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.

They are scarce on the west coast of Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall (maybe 1,000 to 5,000 recorded in each area since 1690), and incredibly rare on the south east of England (under 100 recorded since 1690!).  

So far 3 have been found in the past year on the Strandliners surveys. Surveys are one of the best ways to find them as they involve close scrutiny of what has washed in.

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.

Here are some I have found in the past 8 years.
Bottom left – 4 sea hearts (Entadada gigas)
Top clockwise – Brown Hamburger Bean (Mucuna sloanei), Red Hamburger Bean (Mucuna urens), Starnut Palm (Astrocaryum sp.), Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) (more North American distribution).


Strandliners is a voluntary run community interest company. Funds usually come from small grants – but these cannot cover all expenditure. To help develop our area of work and the events Strandliners holds, we now have a Donations page. Thank you to all who have donated, your support is greatly appreciated.


We are currently reviewing the way people join or subscribe and by next month
plan to launch Strandliners Membership!
We hope to be offering… 
An expanded quarterly newsletter
A member’s portal on the website with exclusive access to information
Priority booking for events, including winter workshops – to gain beachcombing experience and skills
A free beach walk with Andy Dinsdale.

MOOC on Marine Litter

Want to know more about beach pollution?
This 2 to 8 week course will give an insight to the marine plastic crisis we are experiencing. It is the 4th time is has been offered and is excellent and will be thought provoking, time consuming but invaluable for anyone interested and/or involved in the environment. There should be two levels so it may be possible to dip your toes for the first two weeks or continue for the full eight weeks. And it is free!

If a number of us want to sign up perhaps we can arrange a study group?