Outer Hebrides Coastline | Oirthir an Innse Gall

The Outer Hebrides archipelago is an island chain off the western seaboard of Scotland.   The coastline encompasses more than 100 islands covering an area of ~20,000 km2 with a coastline length of ~4,000 km (MHWS).

Claddach pronounced cla-doch (doch to rhyme with loch) is the Scottish Gaelic for shore, beach, coast, stony shore.

The Outer Hebrides have long, complex, and fascinating, geological history spanning back 3.2 billion years to the formation of the Lewissian Gneiss that constructs much of the islands, but it is the future of these islands that we hope that you will join us in protecting!  The Outer Hebrides archipelago is composed of over 100 islands that make up the largest maritime region in Scotland.  As of 2011 ~27,000 people, 0.5 %, of the population of Scotland (5,295,000), live on 15 inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides1.  The ~4,000 km (MHWS) of coastline encompassing the islands is the longest regional coastline in Scotland2.  The islands are of strategic importance for national security in part because the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982) defined Exclusive Economic Zone extends jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in a region 200 km offshore (1982).  Clearly, the Outer Hebrides oceanographic significance is disproportionate to their relatively small surface area and population.

The Outer Hebrides exposed location in the North Atlantic means that they are hunting and breeding grounds for diverse endemic and migratory wildlife. The marine and coastal environments are increasingly being threatened by a wide range of human activities, as well as the present and future impacts of climate change.  The results are serious but still mostly undocumented and unknown3.  Pollution, especially plastics, is harmful in a variety of ways,  and by joining Clean Coast Outer Hebrides, getting involved, and attending our beach cleans you become a part of the solution.

Brue2019
Help us to protect what we love, become a member today!

Based on the weights of trash (kg) collected at 4 beach cleans along with the areas (m2) we found a range of trash in kilograms per meter squared of 0.011 – 0.064 kg/m2.  We have approximately 4000 km of coastline in the Outer Hebrides (mhws) of which we assume 50% (2000 km) would be depositional, and the remainder erosional. We also assume that trash collects in a ~10 m strip above high water. This provides an estimate of between 222,301 – 1,280,246 kg (mean = 862,424 kg) of trash on the Outer Hebrides coastline. Note that these values are weight, not volume. We fill large skips with ~1500 kg of trash because plastics are mostly low density. CCOH currently removes ~250 – 1000 kg of trash per beach clean at accessible beaches. Recovering all of the accessible rubbish would take a mean average of ~2600 organized beach cleans! To put this in perspective, and these are very conservative numbers based on the existing measured data, to clean all of the trash from the Outer Hebrides coastline Clean Coast Outer Hebrides would need to organize a community-led beach clean every single day for ~7 years.

“Every piece of plastic we pick up from a beach is a victory for life in the oceans”. – Cyrill Gutsch, founder, Parley.

eileanglasshore-289

A small portion of the southern shoreline at Eilean Glas, Scalpay.  Micro and macro plastic fragments are common among rocks on the foreshore.

“Leadership is one of our biggest challenges, and communication of sustainability and environmental messages”. – Chris Hines MBE, founding member, Surfers Against Sewage.

Compared to the Scottish mainland the islands maritime climate provides relatively low range of annual temperatures with annual means of ~6 °C in winter and ~14 °C in summer. Because of their relatively high latitude at ~58 °N it is not unusual for there to be as much sunlight in one 24 period in May as the entire month of January.  The changeable weather is part of local tradition and culture; it is widely accepted that if you don’t like the weather during a beach clean, just wait 15 minutes!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Slideshow images courtesy Cristine McAvoy