20th April 2018
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Winning wildlife images portray plastic litter problem

An Unst photographer has scooped two national awards for his shocking images of gannets ensnared in plastic litter.

The winning image of a solan entwined in plastic netting. Photo: Robbie Brookes

Robbie Brookes, 60, from Baltasound came first and third in the environmental category of The Scottish Nature Photography Awards 2017.

Mr Brookes, originally from the Cotswolds, won with a photo of a gannet in flight with a piece of fishing net around its neck. The picture was captured at Hermaness in 2016.

The sorry image of a gannet wrapped in plastic banding at Burrafirth beach came in third.

Mr Brookes said: “Visiting Hermaness on Unst from February through to late October each year one of the things that stands out, apart from the spectacle of the place, is the rubbish that is used for nest material.

“This picture [the winning image] was taken at one of the nesting sites as the bird soared around on the updrafts close to where I was sitting. Unfortunately, countless birds must lose their lives either from collecting material like this or getting tangled in it while fishing.”

Mr Brookes said bundles of plastic were “an all too common sight around the coast and beaches of Shetland”

He said: “In the summer of 2017 there were at least six or seven of these large bundles of plastic banding around the island of Unst. Sadly, not all of them could be recovered from the sea.”

This shocking image won plaudits for photographer Robbie Brookes.

Joiner Mr Brookes moved to Shetland in 2008 which was “like moving to paradise”.

His interest in photography goes back to when he was about 12 years old and has gone hand-in-hand with his passion for wildlife.
Getting the right shot can be down to a lot of things, said Mr Brookes, including matters like the lighting and knowing your subject.

“When I first went to Hermaness I was totally gobsmacked by the amount of netting and rope and stuff that is used for the nests, and the seabirds because they’ve died being caught up in the stuff,” Mr Brookes said. “It never ceases to sadden me seeing that.”

As well as highlighting the plastic problem, Mr Brookes said photography gives him a chance to be outdoors.

“I get out when I can, which is more often than a lot of people,” he said.
Most often he will be with a camera in hand, although even when he’s not the eager snapper makes a mental note to photograph something.

Part of Mr Brookes’ prize is a holiday cottage stay in Mull.

The camera will be coming along too.

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Press and Journal, The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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One comment

  1. Leslie Sinclair

    Its a pity more plastic couldnt be recycled and ship owners could take waste plastic to nearby ports for recycling instead of dumping it at sea.

    Reply

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