‘Between the Land and the Sea’ is a documentary about Cornwall and the people who love it. It is also a film about human impact on marine environment, with special emphasis on the problem of plastic pollution. From March till November 2017 I have visited different parts of the Cornish coast and met with the locals. We spoke about their personal experiences of the coast, about the changes they observe on land and in the sea and about their hopes for the future of this beautiful area. Most people I met are involved as volunteers in various marine conservation projects. Their aims are to maintain the area through regular beach cleans, to protect marine wildlife, to organise and inspire others to join the environmental initiatives or to change our consumer behaviour. I met marine biologists, psychologists, divers, artists, college students and many, many more, some fascinating characters amongst them, people with vision and energy to match. Apart from the environmental issues, this film explores human motivations: why some of us decide to act, what it takes to become a conservationist or a community organiser? In recent years the problem of plastic pollution and human impact on the seas has become a hotly discussed topic on social media and on television. People are becoming more aware, but are often unsure what they can do about it themselves. This film hopes to provide inspiration and show that by taking small actions on a local scale, one step at a time, we can begin to make a big difference in the world.
It has been some time I have wanted to make a film about the plastic pollution. In 2014, while filming with Archelon, marine conservation trust in Greece, I heard about turtles and other sea creatures dying after mistakenly eating a plastic bag, instead of a jellyfish, their food source. I realised that our actions, here on land, have far reaching consequences in the environment that a lot of us only visit on occasion. Plastic in the sea kills not only turtles, but even giants like Humpback whales. And that is only one of many calamitous aspects of this versatile and overused material we don’t seem to be able to live without. Plastic in the food is toxic, the chemicals that build it, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may cause cancer. Yet, we allow it to enter the food chain, leech into our takeaway food and our morning coffee. Once thrown away, it will remain in the environment long after our death, causing harm.
Those who participate in beach cleans often find plastic items that have been in the water for decades. They are not only toxic, but for some animals may be a dangerous trap.
By organising beach clean ups, conservation groups such as Rame Peninsula Beach Care or Newquay Marine Group and many others, not only inspire and motivate citizens to maintain the area free of debris, but also spread awareness of the plea of our seas: how much more plastic can the oceans take? For these groups beach cleans are one of many aspect of their battle against plastic. Another one is working with local businesses or factories to reduce the amount of plastic entering the environment. We know though, it’s only when our behaviour towards plastic, our reliance and addiction to it changes, the production will diminish: we all can contribute by making conscious choices every day.
Ghost gear is another issue I talk about in this film. Over fishing being a major problem across the globe, discarded fishing nets that continue endangering wildlife are adding that extra threat for the struggling sea creatures. Nets are nowadays made of plastic and can stay on the ocean floor for many decades after they were lost. Seals have been recorded being caught in the fishing nets and conservation bodies such as Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust or Seal Sanctuary monitor and rescue those animals. Seals are, of course, not the only ones. Divers groups, like Fathoms Free, organise ghost gear collections around the Cornish coast. Fathoms Free also recycles retrieved nets, turning them into usable products, such as kayaks.
Most of the groups featured in the film have been created by inspired individuals as local community groups, for the benefit of all and inviting all to join in. I hope that their story will inspire those who love nature and the sea, to create their own groups or join the existing ones to help save our planet.
The film has been awarded Best Foreign Film Award at Yosemite International Film Festival. You can watch the full film here: