Coastal Cleanups

Marine pollution is threatening the wellbeing of orcas and other marine life around the world, with plastic products and other human-induced waste being found in the stomachs of stranded cetaceans on a regular basis. Especially plastic bags blocking the digestive system and simulating the feeling of a full stomach (whereas the animal is actually slowly starving) are often thought to be the cause of death for whales and dolphins alike.
In terms of marine debris, Iceland is no exception to the rule. A rapid increase in the tourism industry raises concerns over garbage left in the Icelandic nature from camping and hiking activities, and poor management of these apparent and growing problems. The garbage left in the environment, eventually ending up in the ocean, has a direct impact on the wellbeing of orcas and other marine animals in Icelandic waters. Fighting pollution along the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is, therefore, one of the tasks very much at the heart of Orca Guardians.

© Plett Stranding Network / Gwenith Penry.

Household garbage and a sandal found in the stomach of an orca near Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, 14.12.2015.

© Plett Stranding Network / Gwenith Penry.
Volunteers getting ready for the cleanup in a seemingly pristine area.

Volunteers getting ready for the cleanup in a seemingly pristine area.

Most garbage could be found in the grass area between the beach and road.

Most garbage could be found in the grass area between the beach and road.

On the 6th of May, 2017, we conducted our very first coastal cleanup in cooperation with Láki Tours on Snæfellsnes, and the result was alarming. 11 persons cleaned 1 km of coastline at Mávahliðs rif, collecting a total of 71 kg of trash, of which 58 kg was plastic waste! It is important to note that this is thought to be one of the “cleaner” beaches of Snæfellsnes. The items collected ranged from car parts and tires, over ropes, fenders and fuel filters, to glass and plastic bottles, bags and boxes of all forms and sizes. This beach cleanup was, at the same time, part of the Nordic Coastal Cleanup 2017, with the Snæfellsnes Peninsula being the first-ever Icelandic area for this project.

The result - 71 kg of trash collected from 1 km of coastline! See some of the most unusual items we collected below.

The result - 71 kg of trash collected from 1 km of coastline! See some of the most unusual items we collected below.

After we finished the beach cleanup, the items collected were counted, weighed, and sorted for recycling in Ólafsvík.

After we finished the beach cleanup, the items collected were counted, weighed, and sorted for recycling in Ólafsvík.

Fishing hooks, especially dangerous for birds, collected in the Ólafsvík harbour on a 3-minute stroll. During the cleanup we found 3 dead gulls.

Fishing hooks, especially dangerous for birds, collected in the Ólafsvík harbour on a 3-minute stroll. During the cleanup we found 3 dead gulls.

Plastic canister and can

Plastic canister and can

Hubcap and big plastic pieces

Hubcap and big plastic pieces

Ropes and fender

Ropes and fender

Fuel filter

Fuel filter


A big thank you to all Orca Guardians volunteers, as well as the Láki Tours guests from the United States and Germany, who spontaneously participated in our coastal cleanup after the last whale watching tour of the day!

Thank you also to Láki Tours, Earth Check, and Landvernd for the support.

We are hoping to organize more beach cleanups in the future, and on a more regular basis. If you would like to participate in our next cleanup, please follow our Facebook page for an announcement closer to the time!

Coastal Cleanups