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The Final Week in…

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Kevin Bennett, WCA Intern

29/09/2016: The final week in the WCA office

 

What a weekend to recover from! March of the Mermaids was an amazing success for the WCA and for the Net Effect Campaign.

From Saturday’s activities we managed to raise over £1000 towards supporting the fight of untangling our oceans.

So Monday morning begins the epic clean up operation, it’s difficult to see the office floor due to a maze of gazebos, a coconut shy, fundraising buckets, a 10m inflatable orca named Ollie and a recycled trawl net turned into the ‘ghost net challenge’, just to name a few of the obstacles.

But with all hands on deck it doesn’t actually take too long to get the place looking like new. We then boiled the kettle to make tea and coffee which will assist us in planning the final and arguably most challenging week of the internship.

We started the task of planning the finer details of the drag net challenge, trying to stay within the realms of what was insurable. We decided that dragging the ghost gear through the shallows at low tide was the safest option and confirmed we would carry out the challenge on Thursday at noon.

On Tuesday we split into two groups, one group organising our fundraising activities to carry out on Brighton pier and one group working on taking the Net Effect global! This meant completing the online resources that we would share with partners, composing an introductory email and figuring out how to use mail merge to send it out to all of the WCA partners. Mail merge was something none of us had ever done but after a YouTube tutorial and some research, Rose Anne skilfully completed the task. The aim of this was to encourage WCA whale watch partners to join the Net Effect campaign and by Wednesday morning we had our first pledger, a whale watching company based in Sri Lanka!

The majority of Wednesday was taken up by fundraising and awreness raising activities. We got permission from the owners of Brighton pier to place our 10m inflatable Orca at the piers entrance, one of the cities prime locations. In groups of two to three interns we shook buckets to collect donations as well as offered people the opportunity to get dressed up as a marine creature and take a selfie with Ollie the Orca, who was draped in fishing net to simulate entanglement.

Thursday, the big day had arrived. The day we would drag 1.2 tonnes of end of life fishing gear for 1km along the shallows of Brighton beach. Amongst the excitement and nerves came a massive bost, we relieved a single donation of £500 from an individual who fully supports the aims of the project!

But it was filling the back of a Land Rover with all of the ghost net that the reality of the challenge hit home, and again carry it from the road, down sets of stairs, along the promenade and over the pebbly beach. We tied up the nets on the beach to ensure no pieces would come loose and end up lost in the sea and then had a minute to spare to pose for a few pictures. And now over to the video of what happened over the next half an hour…

Drag Net Challenge Video

In the elation of the aftermath we changed from our wet clothes and went for lunch as a group and chatted about the morning and the challenge.

The afternoon was taken up with presentations from expert naturalist and WCA CEO Dylan Walker on identification and how to be a good guide. For me this was not only very interesting and informative but it was exciting as we started to think more in detail about what we will experience on placement.

We then had to put the theory into practice by giving Dylan and Amanda a guided tour of the local environment, which was the beach outside the WCA office. It was made even more challenging/ fun by the lack of cetaceans. Instead we focused on wildlife such as herring gulls and slipper limpets, as well as a history lesson of the famous Palace Pier and an interesting talk about the beach pebbles from our own resident geologist Sophia.

To celebrate the end of a hectic and productive day (and week!) we thought it was a great idea to have a BBQ on the beach, but unfortunately we were let down by the British ‘summer’ as ain and winds lashed the Sussex coast. Instead we headed for the sanctuary of a nearby pub and enjoyed a couple of well-earned drinks as we said goodbye to Eva, who was leaving for her placement.

After yesterdays rain, Friday started with dragging out 1.2 tonnes of fishing net across the beach to dry… who could have guessed how bad a wet fishing net would smell! The final day of the four weeks of training in Brighton was upon us, to me it felt a lot like the last day of school before the holidays, the atmosphere was relaxed but in reality we still had a lot to achieve before the end of the day.

In the afternoon we finished off appraisals with Dylan but also got on with making the demonstrative tools to ensure we would have enough to take with us to be used on placements across the world. Then it was time to say goodbye, but only for now! As the very first net effecters we shared a special bond and we plan to have a reunion next year… not sure where or when but someone did mention The Azores!

We all spent four weeks dedicating our own time to raising awareness of an issue that we truly believe in, and an issue that with your support can be removed from our seas. It’s not too late to support The Net Effect, you can still donate via our dragnet challenge charity page.

https://chuffed.org/project/the-dragnet-challenge-pulling-ghost-fishing-gear-from-pier-to-pier

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