Kimmeridge nurdle hunt to help save Purbeck’s sea life

The Wild Seas Centre at Kimmeridge in Dorset is joining in The Great Nurdle Hunt to highlight the threat of tiny bits of plastic called nurdles that end up on our beaches.

Despite their seemingly harmless name and looks, these nurdles are a real and growing danger to the entire food chain along Purbeck’s beaches – and that includes humans.

Kimmeridge Bay

Nurdles can be found along the shore line at Kimmeridge

Harmful and unwelcome addition to Dorset beaches

Volunteers are being urged to join in with a clean-up and public awareness event from 2 pm to 3.30 pm on Sunday October 9th 2022 at Kimmeridge Bay to remove these harmful and unwelcome addition to Dorset beaches.

Nurdles are tiny pellets of white or occasionally coloured plastic which are used industrially to make all kinds of plastic products.

Billions of the granules end up in waterways when accidents happen at plastic factories, or when they are unintentially spilled as they are transported around the world.

Nurdles are tiny pieces of plastic which can kill marine life

Nurdles absorb toxins and enter the food chain with consequences for all

Toxic sponges

Huge amounts end up along the shorelines of beaches like Swanage and all along the Jurassic coastline and, because they look like fish eggs, are mistaken by sea creatures as food and eaten.

And as nurdles themselves act as toxic sponges and absorb harmful chemical and pollutants, they are not only a killer for small creatures, but also work their way on up the food chain to anything which eats their victims.

The Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre at Kimmeridge is hoping that as many people join in the Great Nurdle Hunt as possible, whether they sign up to its organised event or just take part by looking for nurdles on other local beaches.

The data from the clean-up along Kimmeridge Bay will be submitted to the national campaign to press for changes in the law to make it harder for nurdles to end up in the sea.

Wild Seas Centre at Kimmeridge
Phil Abraham

Kimmeridge Wild Seas Centre has a nurdle hunt on Sunday October 9th 2022

Billions of nurdles end up in the sea

Julie Hatcher, Marine Awareness Officer at the Wild Seas Centre, said:

“We want the support of the public across Purbeck to help us remove harmful nurdles and microplastics from the beach at Kimmeridge.

“All around the world, billions of nurdles are lost into the environment each year, ending up in the sea or on our beaches where they pose a threat to wildlife.

“The best way to remove these nurdles and other microplastics that wash up along the strandline without damaging this rich habitat is to pick them up by hand.

“People are always surprised at how many are found, and it is time that we draw public attention to the issue and provide a snapshot on global plastic pellet pollution.

“By participating, not only will you be helping our local marine wildlife, but you will also be collecting important data which will be used by national and global organisations to support calls for change.”


Nurdles are known to affected and cause deaths in 180 different marine species


Harmful chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are absorbed by nurdles

China refuses to release spillage figures

Campaigners say that in Europe alone, up to 23 billion plastic nurdles end up in the environment every day. In one year, this amounts to 8 trillion nurdles, or 160 million kilos – and worldwide the figure is more like a minimum 230 billion kilos, especially as China refuses to reveal its figures.

The plastic pellets can get trapped in an animal’s stomach causing ulceration, making them feel full and stopping them eating real food. This can lead to starvation and potentially death.

Toxic chemicals can also transfer from microplastic to animals that eat them, causing further harm – another route for these chemicals to enter the food chain.

And nurdles might also have indirect effects on ecosystems; on the beach, micro plastics can change the characteristics of sand, such as its temperature, which can affect animals like sea turtles that incubate their eggs on beaches.

Swanage Beach Clean 2019
Litter Free Purbeck

Beach clean teams, like these volunteers at Swanage, are now being urged to tackle nurdles, too

Nurdles slip under the radar of public concern

Sealife campaigner Juliet Phillips, of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said:

“Less conspicuous than plastic bags, nurdles can slip under the radar of growing public concern about marine plastic pollution, despite being the second largest source of microplastic marine pollution in Europe.

“Every day, billions of nurdles are melted down to make plastic products. They can escape into waterways if spills occur, which can happen at any stage of the production, transport or conversion process.

“We are delighted that Dorset Wildlife Trust and Kimmeridge Wild Seas Centre are helping to raise awareness of this growing problem, especially among the younger generation.”

Kimmeridge Bay

Rare types of seaweed can be found in Kimmeridge’s rockpools

Snorkel trail more successful than ever

In 2019, Kimmeridge Bay and the whole stretch of coastline on either side became a marine conservation zone, partly because of its amazing array of rare sealife – much of which can be seen with just a little patience.

The Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre has been raising awareness of the national importance of Kimmeridge’s sea life by running events throughout summer 2022 including a snorkel trail in the bay.

Calm seas, light winds and plenty of warmth has led to the snorkel trail having more to see than ever before, including an abundance of colourful seaweeds, spiny spider crabs and velvet swimming crabs and several species of wrasse which have been spotted at more than two feet long.

Colourful corkwing wrasse are found in Kimmeridge Bay

Colourful corkwing wrasse are among the inhabitants of Kimmeridge Bay

Spiny spider crabs are found in Kimmeridge Bay

Spiny spider crabs have been spotted along the Kimmeridge snorkel trail

Sheer abundance of tiny stalked jellyfish

Julie Hatcher added:

“We want visitors to explore this incredible area, and from the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre we can lead them on rockpool rambles, organise beach cleans and create our seasonal snorkel trails.

“For example, peacock’s tail seaweed is rare in the UK, but there’s lots of it in the warm, shallow rockpools at Kimmeridge – one of the reasons why we became a marine conservation zone.

“In the shallow waters of Kimmeridge Bay, the sea bed is full of light, allowing colourful algae to grow from pink coral weed to blue rainbow wrack and golden wire weed.

“And in spring and early summer, the seaweed is festooned with tiny stalked jellyfish. The sheer abundance of them in Kimmeridge Bay is another example of why the area is so special.

Further Information

  • To book a free place on the Kimmeridge nurdle hunt go to the Dorset Wildlife Trust website
  • Anyone can submit data on nurdles found on beaches by registering it on The Great Nurdle Hunt website
  • More information about other events like the snorkel trail is on the Fine Foundation Wild Seas Centre website

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