Greenpeace ship sets sail on ocean plastic expedition around Scotland

Publication date: 5th May 2017

Today, Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II sets sail on a two-month scientific voyage around Scotland’s coastlines, investigating the impact of ocean plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes and iconic wildlife.

With studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic, scientists and campaigners aboard the vessel will explore the front line of plastic pollution, from gannets and razorbills on the Bass Rock, to basking sharks in the Hebrides and seabird colonies on the Shiant Isles.

LAUNCH EVENT: 6-8pm, Friday 5 May, Custom House Leith (map) – featuring speakers from Greenpeace UK, Scottish Seabird Centre, Marine Conservation Society and former environment secretary Richard Lochhead MSP. See notes for full details.

Throughout May and June, the crew and scientists from Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories, based at Exeter University, will be aboard the Beluga II to carry out sea surface sampling for microplastics, survey remote beaches for pollution and investigate seabird nests for plastic during hatching season.

The expedition will take in sites of stunning beauty and biodiversity, including the Bass Rock, Gunna Sound, Mull, Rùm, Eigg, Skye, and the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides. Along the way Greenpeace will work in collaboration with organisations such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Marine Conservation Society and others.

Ariana Densham, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:

“With 12 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, there’s never been a more important time for us to understand the impact of plastic pollution on our most loved wildlife. We’re thrilled to be working with some brilliant organisations as we tour some of the most breathtaking locations in Scotland, and the research which we will be doing – from sampling wildlife feeding waters for microplastics to beach surveys and documenting plastic pollution in seabird nests – will add to the growing body of knowledge on ocean plastic pollution.

“It cannot be right that our beaches, seas and the stunning wildlife they are home to should become the final dumping ground for throwaway plastic, like bottles, bags and other packaging. With 16 million plastic bottles being dumped every day in the UK alone, we need serious action from major soft drinks companies like Coca-Cola in reducing their plastic footprint, and we need to see Government action on introducing bottle deposit schemes, to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in our environment.”

Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, added:

“As the world’s largest northern gannet colony, the Bass Rock is of international significance and the ideal starting location for this vital research and environmental campaign by Greenpeace.

“Controlling our interactive live cameras on the Bass Rock from our Discovery Centre, we often see plastics in the nests of gannets and other seabirds. It is essential that action is taken to minimise marine litter and to better understand the impacts to our seas and wildlife. This Greenpeace expedition will help to highlight this threat to Scotland’s outstanding marine environment and wildlife, and reinforce the need for change.”

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“We’re really pleased to see Greenpeace taking the message out about marine plastic to communities around Scotland, and we’re looking forward to joining their boat team at every opportunity we get. Our beach litter surveys show that we’re facing a rising tide of rubbish on Scottish shores, and we urgently need to act now to reduce it.”

The first stop on the tour will be on and around the Bass Rock, with water sampling for microplastics in the area and documentation of plastic pollution in nests. Photo and video will be available by Thursday 11 May.




Notes for editors

Expedition launch event details:

Time: 6-8pm, Friday 5 May (includes talks and drinks reception)

Location: Custom House Leith, 65-67 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6LH (map)


  • John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK
  • Richard Lochhead MSP, former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment
  • Tom Brock, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre
  • Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer, Marine Conservation Society

No registration is required for the event, however if you are attending and would like to arrange interviews with speakers then please email

For images of the Beluga II, see:

For general images of ocean plastic pollution, see:

For more information on the tour, interviews and comments, contact:

Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer at Greenpeace UK,, 07973 873 155