Our Family’s Battle Against Marine Pollution
James-Collins Family, Cornwall
Who we are
Firstly, please let us introduce ourselves. We are Castaway Ropeworks.
We are a family team of four based in Hayle in the west of Cornwall.
Adam 34, is an ex Royal Navy and Merchant Navy seaman who has spent 16 years at sea on a variety of ships around the world.
Amy, 35, is a Sailing Instructor and Outdoors Guide and the brains behind our business.
Morgan, 7, is our eldest child and is extremely passionate and very concerned about the marine eco-system around our coast.
Drake, 5, is a pirate in the making and loves seals and gorillas but is a little bit frightened of fish!
We are supported by Amy’s mom, Dawn who keeps all our paperwork in order.
How Castaway Ropeworks began
We started our business in early 2020 when due to the Covid-19 pandemic Adam’s contract on a local ferry was ended earlier than we anticipated. With mounting bills to pay we desperately needed a way to stay afloat.
Castaway Ropeworks was born from a length of rope that Adam and Morgan dragged out of Hayle Estuary. We untangled it all and cut out over 130 large hooks. If left on the beach this tangled up Spanish Longline would have drifted out on the next tide to ensnare any marine creature in its path. A huge problem known as Ghost Gear entanglement.
We created some Doormats and Dog Throw and Retrieve Toys from the rope, they sold quickly enabling us to pay off some bills.
Why we repurpose
Adam was aware of the staggering amount of Ghost Gear in our oceans and was horrified to learn that his local beach was now a victim to this tragedy. We all saw in the news recently that plastic particles are now being found in human blood.
On average 640,000 tons of Plastic net and rope enter our seas each year. Fishing boats may need to cut their nets to save boat damage or injury to themselves, nets can be damaged after storms and break free from moorings and even some is even intentionally dumped. The net or rope will drift invisibly through the oceans and wrap itself around any animal or obstacle in its path. The Ghost Gear will then hold them under water until they either drown or die of exhaustion or starvation. It is truly a nightmare scenario. 92% of encounters between Ghost Gear and marine creatures such as Dolphin, Porpoise, Turtle, Seal, Seabird and even Whales results in a fatality.
But that is not the only devastating problem these Ghost Gear nets and ropes present. They are all made of plastics such as Nylon or Polypropylene. It is estimated that it will take 600 years for a piece of ghost gear to full dissolve. During that time it will fray and break down into ever smaller and smaller fibres of plastic. These fibres enter our food chain after they are ingested by fish and then larger creatures. Plastic particles are present in the stomachs of at least 70% of deep sea fish.
This is where we as a business come into the situation. We are 110% dedicated to retrieving as much ghost gear and rope from our beaches as possible. We also take donations from local fishermen here in Cornwall to prevent it going to landfill and thence polluting the Land ecosystem.
So far we have removed and recycled 15 miles of discarded rope into new items and homewares such as decorative hangers, doormats and candle sticks. All our products are handmade utilising traditional ropework and seamanship skills learnt at sea and passed down through generations.
Whenever we visit a beach we do not only remove fishing waste, we take every scrap of plastic we find and remove it for proper recycling to ensure our beaches are clean for both wildlife and visitors.
We estimate we have so far recovered well over a 3 tons of mixed plastics in the time we have been established. Our children take an active part in our business by collecting plastic debris and helping to make our items.
We were delighted to have been nominated for the BBC Radio Cornwall Make a Difference Award Environment category 2022. We are highly honoured to actually have been judged to be the overall WINNERS of the category. A totally unexpected acclamation. Our category was judged by Sir Tim Smitt, how amazing is that!
Made in Cornwall
We are very proud to announce that we are also officially Made In Cornwall Certified! After a thorough inspection and assessment by Cornwall Council Trading Standards we have passed all the criteria. This confirms that not only are all of our products handmade in Cornwall but we also have all required operating procedures and policies in place.
We believe businesses should work ethically to support each other and not to compete. We have adopted ethical practices by sharing expertise, ideas and in some situations customers with other businesses from Langoustier Rope Mats of St.Agnes to A Frayed Knot of Orkney, to support each other and to work towards our common goal of reducing marine plastics.
Giving back to the community
We have a growing following of loyal customers who have supported us from the start. As a thank you to all in our community we have commenced our “Lost Buoys” project. This consists of making then locating buoy swings in local woods for the enjoyment of children and adventurous adults. In addition to our Ropeworks we have recently re-opened Carbis Bay Beaver and Cub Scouts after the groups had closed for the past 3 years due to the pandemic and lack of adult volunteers. We plan to educate the young people in the dangers of marine plastic through adventurous activities and beach visits.
A thank you – our “Lost Buoys” rope and buoy swings can be found in our local Cornish woods. Placed for the enjoyment of all children and adventurous adults!
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