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abandoned boat

Brighton researchers create workshop for Shoreham Port Sustainability Week

Dr Corina Ciocan and Dr Mary Gearey are running a workshop on 9 September, revealing the ocean pollution caused by decaying fibreglass boats.

The Oceanic Pollution workshop on Thursday 9 September at 11am is free, but those keen to attend are asked to register beforehand to discover cutting-edge investigations now taking place into a significant but overlooked source of ocean pollution.

A huge number of boats worldwide are made with glass reinforced plastic (GRP), and as these age and decay they release microplastics and glass fibres into marine habitats, threatening aquatic organisms, including edible species such as oysters. The team led by Dr Ciocan and Dr Gearey have been carrying out research into the problem around Chichester Harbour, and have recently created a pioneering new environmentally friendly biomaterial – now undergoing tests in the area – designed to minimise the impact of fibreglass pollution on the environment.

Their workshop will also include a Q&A session plus a video looking at the growing international network aiming to tackle the GRP pollution crisis, inspired by Dr Ciocan and Dr Gearey’s work.

The Oceanic Pollution workshop is one of a raft of events taking place between 8-10 September in Shoreham Port Sustainability Week. These include daily workshops on Sussex’s ground-breaking kelp restoration project and the vital role kelp can play in tackling climate change, two workshops on the ecology of the local dolphin population, plus an exploration of green energy. There will also be a closing event on 10 September looking at the wider issue of sustainability and ports.

Dr Corina CiocanDr Ciocan, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology in the School of Applied Sciences, said: “Fibreglass boats have, for the past sixty years, provided an affordable and durable means for small-scale commercial fishers, and professional sailors, to secure their livelihoods across the globe. As these vessels now reach their end-of-life as seagoing craft an emergent crisis is apparent: the boats decay and release toxic microfibres into the aquatic environments with potential to inhibit marine life.

The disposal/abandonment of vessels at sea is difficult to monitor and evaluate; these boats interfere with maritime traffic, fishing activities, as well as damaging benthic features and littering the seafloor.Our pilot study aims for the first time, to connect with and harness community knowledge related to marine littering, especially end of life boat abandon and fibreglass pollution. This collaboration will bring a social science component into the already developed international network, centred around the environmental impact of the boating industry.”

The workshop is based on a project led by Dr Ciocan and Dr Gearey entitled ‘Mitigating an emergent global aquatic pollutant crisis: community action-research on end-of-life fibreglass boats’, funded by University of Brighton’s Radical Futures as part of its Science In A Changing World initiative.

Stephanie Thomson • September 8, 2021


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