THE Isle of Man is leading the world in the way it is tackling the problem of plastic and marine pollution on beaches, according to scientists and marine experts in the USA.
The achievements of the charity Beach Buddies, and its “exceptional engagement with the community” have been praised during a brief visit to the USA by the organisation’s founder Bill Dale.
He gave a series of presentations in California, Ohio and Washington DC, explaining how Beach Buddies had started with two volunteers and three dogs on a beach in the Isle of Man and had expanded to today’s figure of 8,000 different volunteers since 2013.
“You have something very special,” said Dr Ray Beiersdorfer, Distinguished Professor of Geology at Youngstown University, Ohio, who had visited the Isle of Man in 2016 and took part in a beach cleaning session alongside local volunteers.
“The fact that you have had more than 8,000 different volunteers in such a short space of time is an inspiration to us all, and gives hope that the rest of the world could follow your example.”
His comments were echoed when Dr Beiersdorfer and two more Youngstown University professors visited Washington DC with Bill Dale to meet Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Jon White, President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, which is one of the world’s leading organisations involved in research and education programmes in the areas of ocean observing, ocean exploration and ocean partnerships.
Jon White said, “Beach Buddies is setting a great example to us all. Around 10% of your population have taken part in beach cleaning, and you have made a huge difference to your environment. If the rest of the world could get just 1% of the population involved we could transform all our beaches.”
He added that the Beach Buddies’ education programme in schools was also to be praised, as it was tackling the problem of marine pollution for future generations, and hopefully changing the future.
The Consortium, which has members across the world, has offered to publicise the achievements of Beach Buddies on its website and to retain a long-term association.
Bill Dale added, “It is amazing to think that not long ago I was walking the beach with my dogs wondering how to get a few people together to clean up the Isle of Man’s beaches, and only a few days ago I was having a meeting with the CEO of one of the world’s leading ocean science organisations to talk about what we had achieved.
“I always knew we had something a bit special, and this was emphasised by Dr Han Qunli, head of the UNESCO Man & The Biosphere programme when he highlighted the achievements of Beach Buddies at last year’s ceremony to award the Isle of Man its Biosphere honour.
“However, when you are invited to speak at Universities in the USA and to meet a man in a position such as Jon White, then this places the Isle of Man and Beach Buddies on an entirely different platform. It’s a tribute to ever single person on our island, including the ‘unknown volunteers’ who walk the beaches and help to fill our bins, that we have been elevated to this level, on the world stage.
“The key to this has been a number of factors, but the centre of this is our education programme, which had been in the planning for a long time, and finally began at the start of 2017 when presentations started at all the Island’s schools, with more than 2,000 children subsequently taking part in beach cleaning sessions around the Island in this year alone, and many more to get involved in 2018 and beyond.”
Further invitations for Beach Buddies to give presentations in 2018 have been received from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and again in the USA. The message will also be spread via YouTube, showing video of the presentation given to Youngstown University which will be going online very shortly.
Bill Dale added, “It is amazing to look back and see what has happened in the last 12 months alone, and who knows where this might all lead in the future. I cannot say enough to thank the team from Youngstown University who came to the Isle of Man in 2016 to study our unique geology and their enthusiasm for what we have achieved. Without them, none of this would have happened so quickly as it has.
“It has been a privilege as a Manxman to be invited to speak about Beach Buddies and to represent the Isle of Man. It’s also made me realise more than ever how very important our Biosphere honour truly is, and that we must do everything we can to retain this status, and just what a truly beautiful place we live in that we sometimes take for granted.”