A charity aiming to clean and improve the Medway Estuary is looking for volunteers and members after launching today (2 July).
The Living River Foundation will monitor pollution levels in the River Medway, organise clean-ups and work with local communities to improve the local environment.
The idea is the brainchild of husband and wife team Tanya Ferry and Richard Bain, both no strangers to the polluted waterways and their damaging effects on the plants, animals and people who live and work on them.
Aquatic ecologist Tanya sailed around Britain last year with Exxpedition – an all woman-crew whose journey sampling the rivers and oceans for plastics and pollutants was filmed for Sky One documentary series Ocean Rescue.
Meanwhile, Richard, 32, who runs boat trip company Jetstream Tours, regularly witnesses the fabulous wildlife – such as pods of porpoises – en route from Rochester, Gravesend and Essex, sadly, often living among mounds of floating litter.
Now, the couple – who even opted for a plastic-free wedding a few months ago – have decided to bring their passion and expertise to the Medway and Thames estuaries and are hoping to find people with similar values to join their foundation that is in the process of becoming a charity.
Tanya said: “When you use the rivers and estuaries as much as we do, you see so much pollution. From calcified balls floating along, to plastic bags, bottles and shopping trolleys.
“But it’s the micro-plastics that are the hidden danger to our wildlife and plantlife. Microplastics are recognised as the largest form of solid-waste pollution on Earth, with millions of metric tons of plastic polluting the world’s oceans and waters. Over time, most break down into tiny pieces invisible to the naked eye, which are consumed by marine wildlife and contaminate the food we eat.
“The Living River Foundation has been set up to do something about it on a local level. The Medway Estuary has beautiful views and we regularly see pods of porpoises and other amazing wildlife.
“Now we want to make sure future generations will be able to enjoy it as much as the generations before.”
Aquatic ecologist Tanya, 37, from Upchurch, has worked on the Tidal Thames since 2006, initially with the Environment Agency and from 2011 for the Port of London Authority. She had also driven other environmental campaigns such as the Cleaner Thames and For Fishes Sake.
A trained marine mammal observer, she also teaches monitoring for freshwater, estuarine and marine techniques, while holding a number of trustee and volunteer roles with the RYA, RNLI and Sea-Changers. Last year, she undertook two legs of the three circumnavigating Great Britain by Exxpedition – a feat filmed for Sky One documentary series Ocean Rescue.
Her wedding to Richard, this April, even focused on being single-use plastic free – with gifts, lists and favors, to decorations, flowers, entertainment and even clothes, as free from plastic and waste as possible.
Meanwhile, Jetstream Tours, appearing with Living River Foundation at the Kent County Show this weekend, will also be the UK’s first boat tour company to go single use plastic free.
The couple now want to put their expertise to good use with the launch of The Living River Foundation and are looking for like-minded people to join them.
Volunteers can be part of a small trawler crew testing pollution in the water, helping lift the nets, sort samples and record the data, with full training provided. Good sea legs and stamina for long days is a must, though.
Others can help with admin or funding, take part in the regular clean-ups that are planned up and down the Medway, or those with an interest in the estuaries or wildlife, could become a wildlife or guest speaker.
Tanya added: “From fishing, trade, jobs, health and the water we use, local estuaries sustain our communities. LRF has developed a number of exciting new programmes to help us give back, monitor and improve the environment of the estuaries.”
Anyone interested can go to their website at http://living-river.org/or email firstname.lastname@example.org more details.
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