Sea change in Scottish beach surveillance

Published: 27 July 2019

Members of the public can play a vital role in helping marine scientists gather data on animal strandings and the condition of Scotland’s beaches with a new free app.

Launched to coincide with the beginning of National Marine Week, the free Beach Track app allows those taking a stroll on the sands to submit information on beach cleanliness – including levels of litter, plastic waste and pollution – and on any stranded animals, such as dolphins or whales.

The information will help to build up a ‘health map’ of Scotland's coastline, potentially targeting beach cleans to areas which need it most.

Beach Highlands 20160912 140058 500

The app has been developed by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), with additional funding from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Working as a ‘digital assistant’, the app uses a mobile phone’s GPS to record location, while the camera allows users to log anything found on their survey. It will then ask questions about the type of beach and for users to assess how much marine litter was seen.

“Including the islands, Scotland has more than 10,000 miles of coastline so, the more eyes we have on the ground, the more data we can gather to help improve our understanding of health of our waters and the threats facing marine animals. This, in turn, will help all of us to better protect our seas.

“Beach Track is a fantastic tool, allowing anyone taking a stroll, walking their dog or even just enjoying a picnic to contribute to one of the world’s largest and most extensive datasets on marine strandings and beach health. Users should also remember that telling us about a clean stretch of beach is just as important as logging a stranding.”

Ellie MacLennan, Inverness-based SMASS, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) 

“There is still much we don’t know about marine mammals and we can learn a lot by knowing where and why animals strand. Having an easy-to-use app will help to fill these gaps in our knowledge.

“The app will also give us more information about the level of plastic pollution around our shores. The beauty of Beach Track is that everyone can get involved with monitoring their local beach and help to build a picture of what is happening in our seas.”

Karen Hall, SNH Marine Policy & Advice Officer


Source: SRUC


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