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Decision to end Durness beach ranger project 'heartbreaking'

By Mike Merritt

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Founders of a pioneering coastal plastic ranger project in north west Sutherland have described their decision to end it because of financial pressures as “heartbreaking”.

Durness based Plastic@Bay has said it can no longer fund the seasonal ranger service, but hoped somebody would step in to take over the role and even expand it.

Over the last four years the rangers have removed the constant tide of plastic that has washed in to beaches such as beautiful Balnakeil at Durness - much of it from around the world.

Plastic@Bay coastal ranger Conor Drummond hard at working clearing debris from a beach.
Plastic@Bay coastal ranger Conor Drummond hard at working clearing debris from a beach.

Each summer a ranger was employed - backed by volunteers.

“This is quite a heartbreaking moment for us as we know how important rangers are to protect our local area,” said Dr Julien Moreau of Plastic@Bay.

“Unfortunately, we have to stop our ranger service for the foreseeable future. We still believe this to be one of the most important tools available to combat plastic pollution in north west Sutherland and beyond.

“Our rangers have been dedicated individuals, working hard around the tide hours, at weekends, in all weathers, sometimes in very delicate operations dealing with vast amounts of pollution in areas that are hard to reach.

“They contributed to the removal of tens of tons of plastic from our ocean. They educated hundreds of children and adults and brought life and spirit to our community.”

Dr Moreau said the service had been brought to an end because of the costs involved.

“For a long time the training and supervision of the rangers was done at our own personal expense,” he said.

“We simply don’t have enough time available for training any more and even less money.

“We never managed to find a core funding for the service and all fundings we collected only allowed us to provide a part-time living wage on short-term contracts.

“The pressure of accommodation and the inflation of prices, due in particular to mass tourism, makes such salary conditions unattractive to young people, especially in a remote area.

“We were hoping for donations to support this free service but during the span of the last five years, we have never received more than what would pay for just a single day of operations.

“We are working on generating income so that we can pay ourselves and a sustainable ranger service.”

Data collected by Plastic@Bay show that over the course of five years, the annual rate of pollution on Balnakeil Bay has increased by 50 per cent.

Tests show some plastics contain high concentrations of PCB, a carcinogenic chemical.

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