Ocean films to educate and inspire | Sustainable Coastlines

Ocean films to educate and inspire

My Octopus Teacher

This Oscar-winning doco follows filmmaker Craig Foster as he dives in the cold, Atlantic shores near Cape Town, South Africa, where he observes and forms a bond with a young octopus. This beautiful documentary highlights the daily life of the octopus, exploring how she sleeps, lives, eats and teaches us the valuable lesson on how precious life is and our connection with nature. It’s a must watch, but fair warning: tears may be shed!

Available on: Netflix


River Blue

River Blue follows river conservationist Mark Angelo as he explores the world’s rivers, from the most breathtaking to uninhabitable. This documentary uncovers how our clothes are made, how it plays a role in the destruction of our rivers globally and solutions that can help us make a difference.

Available on: Vimeo


Mission Blue

Mission Blue tells the story of world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle as she travels the globe on an urgent mission to shed light on the dire condition of Earth’s oceans.

Available on: Netflix


Chasing Coral

Chasing Coral is a 2017 documentary film about a team of divers, scientists and photographers around the world who document the disappearance of coral reefs.

Available on: Netflix


A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean is an adventure documentary shot on more than 20 locations over the past 4 years. Explorers Craig Leeson and Tanya Streeter and a team of international scientists reveal the causes and consequences of plastic pollution and share solutions.

Available on: Netflix


The Story of Plastic

The Story of Plastic takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it. Spanning three continents, the film illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash, rivers and seas clogged with waste, and skies choked with the poisonous emissions from plastic production and processing.

Available on: DiscoveryGo. Can be rented on Amazon, Apple TV and Xfinity. Or look for community screenings here.


The Last Ocean

The Ross Sea, Antarctica is the most pristine stretch of ocean on Earth. A vast, frozen landscape that teems with life – whales, seals and penguins carving out a place on the very edge of existence. But an international fishing fleet has recently found its way to the Ross Sea. It is targeting Antarctic toothfish, sold as Chilean sea bass in up-market restaurants around the world. The catch is so lucrative it is known as white gold. Ecologist David Ainley knows that unless fishing is stopped the natural balance of the Ross Sea will be lost forever.

Available on the Last Ocean website.


Fishpeople tells the stories of a unique cast of characters who have dedicated their lives to the sea. Featuring Dave Rastovich, Kimi Werner, Matahi Drollet and more.

Available for free on YouTube.

Ocean podcasts to educate and inspire

Hauraki Gulf Kōrero

The Hauraki Forum have launched their first ever podcast — Hauraki Gulf Korero. Hosted by Qiane Matata-Sipu, Hauraki Gulf Kōrero is about telling stories from around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, Tīkapa Moana, Te Moananui-ā-Toi. 

Available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple Podcasts


Water Women

This podcast highlights various perspectives of women who study and document the ocean. They consist of underwater photographers, filmmakers, women who have found innovative ways to break free from plastic, and scientists who provide their knowledge to help us better understand the wonderful critters that live down below!

 Available on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify


Speak Up for the Blue

This podcast explores how to live for a better ocean. It discusses topics such as ocean science, global ocean conservation projects, animals and climate change. New episodes are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

 Available on: Apple Podcasts 


The Marine Talks

Not quite a podcast, The Marine Talks is a series of filmed interviews that aims to bring marine conservation and science to everyday people. The creator, Kai from the Canary Islands, has filmed his latest few episodes here in Aotearoa, featuring Kiwi experts, including our very own Camden Howitt.

Available on YouTube


NOAA Ocean Podcast

Connect with ocean experts and explore topics from corals to coastal science with their audiopodcast.

Listen for free here.


Exploring Earth’s Oceans with Sylvia Earle and Fabien Cousteau

Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with comic co-host Scott Adsit and ocean conservationist Laure Katz to discuss his interviews with legendary explorer and oceanographer Sylvia Earle and aquanaut Fabien Cousteau. You’ll hear how Sylvia and Laure’s each had childhood experiences that sparked their love
for exploring the oceans. Ponder why humans have a hard time showing empathy for certain types of ocean life. Discover why Sylvia says the ocean is “alive,” not just full of water and rocks. Find out how human activity has impacted the way the oceans function and why the acidification of the oceans is rising at an alarming rate.

Listen for free here and here.


It’s Time to Rethink Ocean Conservation

For many, ocean conservation brings up simple ideas like “Look but don’t touch” or thoughts of overfishing in isolated areas. But there is much more to modern conservation, especially when it comes to urban environments.

Listen for free here.


World Ocean Radio

A weekly series of five-minute audio essays on a wide range of ocean issues from science and education to advocacy and exemplary projects, brought to you by long-time host Peter Neill.

Listen here.


Meet the Ocean

Meet the Ocean is an educational podcast using storytelling to improve science communication. Topics and interviews explore the polar regions and other far-off destinations. Content available for all ages.

Find the link to your preferred streaming platform here.

Easy to overlook, but missed dearly if it’s absent. Nature in our urban environments has untold benefits for human health and happiness — and for the environment itself. Find out more with the resources below.

All of these resources are free to use! Use the button underneath the resources to download the content. Please credit the photographers where noted, and tag #ConnectWithNature and @sustainablecoastlines on social media.

We also want to see how you connect with nature. Check out our #NatureGivesMe campaign!

If you find our resources valuable, please consider making a donation to help us create a world with beautiful beaches, healthy waters and inspired people.

Learn more about urban nature

Videos, quotes, and facts to share

Te reo nature words

Proverbs and quotes


Did you know?

Proverbs and quotes


Venture further

Regeneration in ciites Community garden1

Regenerative practice in our cities

One way of connecting with nature is to look at what nature gives us and what we give back in return. Practices that give more than they take are called ‘regenerative’. Explore some here.

Regeneration in ciites Community garden

Connect with your community

Joining your local community garden is a great way to learn to grow food, connect with others, and encourage more green spaces in your urban environment.


Watch 2040

The film 2040 looks towards a positive future with regenerative solutions that improve the wellbeing of the planet, people and all living systems. Watch the trailer below.

Explore the rest of our Connect With Nature Resources!

The production of the Connect With Nature content series was
made possible with the generous support of SC Johnson.

We are blessed with plenty of fresh water here in Aotearoa, and with it, a diversity of unique species. The resources below are designed to educate and inspire, bringing people closer to our amazing freshwater habitats.

All of these resources are free to use! Use the button underneath the resources to download the content. Please credit the photographers where noted, and tag #ConnectWithNature and @sustainablecoastlines on social media.

We also want to see how you connect with nature. Check out our #NatureGivesMe campaign!

If you find our resources valuable, please consider making a donation to help us create a world with beautiful beaches, healthy waters and inspired people.

Learn more about fresh water

Videos, quotes, and facts to share

Te reo river words

Proverbs and quotes


Did you know?

Proverbs and quotes


Take a dip

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Freshwater habitats

We’ve been blessed with a lot of fresh water here in Aotearoa, ranging from glacier-fed lakes to underground springs. We take a look at some of these habitats’ special residents.

River Dog

Film: River Dog

Shot in the remote eastern hill-country of the Wairarapa, one human and several dogs take a stand against the water-damaging farming practices of their neighbours. Watch the trailer below and click here for the full documentary.

Explore the rest of our Connect With Nature resources!

The production of the Connect With Nature content series was
made possible with the generous support of SC Johnson.

Our native forests are unique. Forest ecosystems include a huge diversity of plants and animals, many of which are only found in Aotearoa. The resources below are designed to educate and inspire, bringing people closer to our precious forests.

All of these resources are free to use! Use the button underneath the resources to download the content. Please credit the photographers where noted, and tag #ConnectWithNature and @sustainablecoastlines on social media.

We also want to see how you connect with nature. Check out our #NatureGivesMe campaign!

If you find our resources valuable, please consider making a donation to help us create a world with beautiful beaches, healthy waters and inspired people.

Learn more about our forests

Videos, quotes, and facts to share

Te reo forest words

Proverbs and quotes


Did you know?

Proverbs and quotes


Go bush!

Connect with our native birds

Our native birds are a huge part of what makes Aotearoa special and form a big motivation for our tree-planting events. Learn more about our remarkable birds here.

Fools & Dreamers

Watch this documentary to discover an incredible story of regeneration. Degraded gorse-infested farmland has been regenerated back into beautiful New Zealand native forest over the course of 30 years, thanks to the dream of one man.


Uniqueness of NZ trees

Aotearoa’s forests evolved alone for over 55 million years. This led to some exceptional forest. Read this article to discover how we host some of the oldest primeval forests in the world, some of the largest plant species, and our trees’ unique adaptations.

Saving our kauri

Watch this short documentary about traditional Māori healer, Tohe Ashby, who looks to indigenous medicine to save an entire forest, one tree at a time.

Explore the rest of our Connect With Nature resources!

The production of the Connect With Nature content series was
made possible with the generous support of SC Johnson.

Our marine animals

While Aotearoa’s land is relatively small, we make up for it with the size of our waters. At around 430 million hectares, our ocean territory is 15 times the size of our land mass! That being the case, we’re lucky to have a diversity of marine animals enter our waters. 

We’re constantly inspired by these beautiful animals, and endeavour to protect them through tackling the plastic pollution problem here in Aotearoa. 

Here are just some of the amazing creatures we hope to protect.

Honu / sea turtle

Despite the fact they do not breed in Aotearoa, we encounter five species of honu, or sea turtle, in our waters. The green and leatherback turtles are the species most commonly found in Aotearoa.

What makes honu special?

  • Honu are reptiles, so are cold-blooded. Our waters are usually too cold for them, but in recent years we have had more sightings due to warming temperatures.
  • Honu can maintain body temperatures 5˚C above the sea, which may be why they are more likely to be found in Aotearoa’s cool waters.
  • Leatherback turtles have been clocked as swimming up to 40 kilometres per hour when travelling long distance.
  • Adult green turtles are the only herbivorous sea turtle in the world. However, before they grow up, one of their favourite things to eat is the jellyfish! This can make them particularly vulnerable to ingesting plastics, especially plastic bags.

Māui dolphin / popoto

Image: Department of Conservation and Auckland University.

Māui dolphins, or popoto, are endemic to Aotearoa and are the rarest dolphins in the world, with only around 63 individuals remaining. All of them can be found on the west coast of Te Ika-a-Māui / the North Island, most commonly between Manukau Harbour and Port Waikato.

What makes Māui dolphins special?

  • Out of all dolphin species in the world, Māui dolphins are the smallest. They grow up to 1.7 metres long and weigh 50kg at most! 
  • They are the only dolphins to have a black, rounded dorsal fin. Most other dolphin dorsal fins are sickle-shaped.
  •  Māui dolphins communicate with clicks at a frequency too high for human ears. We have to slow these sounds down 20 times to hear them! Listen below.


  • They also use sound to find their food. Known as ‘echolocation’, and used by other dolphins, they produce high-frequency clicks that bounce off fish and surrounding objects so they can ‘see’ in murky water.
  • Hector’s dolphins look almost identical to Māui dolphins, but are actually genetically and physically distinct.

Toroa / royal albatross

Toroa, or royal albatross, are the largest seabirds in the world, and endemic to Aotearoa. There are two subspecies: Northern and Southern toroa. Of Northern toroa, 99 percent breed on the predator-free Chatham Islands, while the other 1 percent (around 30 pairs) breed at Dunedin’s Taiaroa Head. Meanwhile, Southern toroa only breed on the Subantarctic Campbell and Auckland Islands, with the former hosting 99 percent of breeding pairs!

What makes toroa special?

  • Toroa are Southern Ocean wanderers, spending approximately 85 percent of their lives at sea and only returning to land to breed! Young toroa may spend up to five years at sea before breeding for the first time.
  • Toroa can circumnavigate the globe in just 46 days using a gliding technique called ‘dynamic soaring’. This technique means they don’t have to beat their wings, so they can save their energy.
  • The widest recorded wingspan of the toroa is 3.7 metres.
  • When left undisturbed, toroa can live to be more than 60 years old.

Rako / Buller's shearwater

Rako, or Buller’s shearwater, can be seen across Aotearoa, especially in the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty. However, due to their vulnerability to humans and other predators they now only breed at Tawhitirahi and Aorangi (Poor Knights) Islands near Whāngārei. There are now fewer than 100,000 breeding pairs left — down from an estimated 2.5 million during the 1980s.

What makes rako special?

  • Rako, like many of New Zealand’s petrels, breed in burrows instead of trees or bushes! This trait makes them vulnerable to introduced predators.
  • Rako are protective of their breeding grounds, crowding out most other petrel species and preventing them from breeding in these areas.
  • Rako are nocturnally active during the breeding season. At night, nesting grounds come alive with the rako’s cooing and groaning calls. Listen here.


  • Though they only breed in Aotearoa, rako can be found moulting and feeding around Japan and off the North American coast during our autumn and winter.

Oceanic manta rays

Oceanic manta rays are the largest of all manta rays. They frequent Aotearoa’s waters, but we know very little about the rays that come here. Manta Watch New Zealand was set up to find out more, specifically, whether the mantas seen here are seasonal visitors, or a distinct population.

What makes manta rays special?

  • They’re also known as the ‘giant manta ray’ for a reason. They grow up to seven metres across and weigh up to 3,000kg! 
  • A manta ray stranded on the Far North’s Rarawa Beach in early 2020, the first time on record — they normally sink to the ocean floor.
  • Manta rays also have the largest brain of any cold-blooded fish.
  • Manta rays are filter feeders, and cruise the open ocean, straining the water from plankton/krill. This filter-feeding strategy makes them vulnerable to ingesting small pieces of plastic.
  • Manta ray mouths are like a sieve, but they never get clogged by large particles due to a ricochet mechanism.
  • Manta rays do not have a poisonous spine in their tail like other stingray species. 

Our native birds

Our native birds are a huge part of what makes Aotearoa special. While we don’t have a huge number of species, what we lack in quantity we more than make up for in distinctiveness.

These wonderful creatures are vulnerable to introduced pests as well as habitat loss. Creating new habitats for these birds is a big motivation for people who take part in our Love Your Water tree-planting events.

 Here are just a few of our remarkable birds.


The pīwakawaka, or fantail, is a little songbird that is widespread throughout Aotearoa’s mainland. Also known as tīrairaka, pīwakawaka are a relatively successful species compared to other natives. The reason for this is their ability to produce lots of young and having a broad diet of small insects, making their diet resilient to environmental changes.

What makes pīwakawaka special?

  • You can recognise a pīwakawaka by its impressive black and white tail, which it uses to change direction quickly while hunting for insects.
  • Most pīwakawaka are grey in colour; however, about 5% of the South Island populations are black, with no white feathers in their tail. Occasionally, a pīwakawaka without a tail can be seen!
  • Pīwakawaka love singing, but only when it’s warm. They will cheep when they’re catching insects (listen below) or when they are alarmed. During the breeding season (August–March), they sing extra loud.



As the only alpine parrots in the world, kea are pretty special birds!

The kea owes its name to its call, which, most commonly, is a long, loud, high-pitched descending cry which may be a broken “kee-ee-aa-aa”, or unbroken “keeeeeaaaa”. 


What makes kea special?

  • Kea are very curious. They are naturally attracted to people that enter their alpine environments, which has led to some funny situations! One kea learnt to turn on the water tap at Aspiring Hut campground. Another locked a mountaineer inside the toilet at Mueller Hut!
  • Like most native birds, kea are vulnerable to introduced pest species, but we humans also cause a problem. Where kea are fed regularly, they are more at risk from pest control and accidents with man-made objects such as cars. So, if you’re lucky enough to see a kea, avoid feeding it!
  • Kea are also known to be one of the most intelligent birds. Recent research has shown that they understand probability, a trait only seen previously in humans and apes. Watch below.


Ruru, or morepork, are often heard in the forest at dusk and throughout the night. You can also sometimes hear them in urban areas. Ruru are named for their call both in te reo Māori and in English. Have a listen below.


What makes ruru special?

  • In Māori tradition the morepork was seen as a watchful guardian. It belonged to the spirit world as it is a bird of the night.
  • You can recognize a ruru by its speckled brown feathers and yellow eyes.
  • Ruru were our only native owl species until recently, but have now been joined by barn owls.
  • A ruru can turn its head 270 degrees! They are also very sensitive to light, and like most owls, are nocturnal.
  • Ruru aren’t currently threatened, but experts believe that numbers are in gradual decline due to predation and loss of habitat. By avoiding chopping down old trees and planting new trees (preferably native), we can save crucial habitat for ruru.


The famous, flightless kiwi are a cherished national icon. Having evolved in a land with no predators, they are seen as a symbol for the uniqueness of Aotearoa’s wildlife.

Unfortunately, the very attributes that make kiwi unique are those that make them vulnerable. They are unable to easily escape from predators and are susceptible to crushing injuries. A small and playful push from a dog can be deadly.

This is why kiwi are flagship species for Aotearoa’s conservation work. The state of the species gives a good indication of the state of the natural environment.

There are five different species of kiwi:
North Island brown kiwi  ·  Roroa / great spotted kiwi  ·  Kiwi pukupuku / little spotted kiwi  ·  Tokoeka / southern brown kiwi  ·  Rowi / Okarito brown kiwi.

What makes kiwi special?

  • Kiwi are ‘ratites’, a diverse group of flightless birds that includes emus, ostriches, cassowaries, and our now-extinct moa. Of the remaining species, kiwi are the only nocturnal members!
  • It’s believed that ancestors of the kiwi arrived in Aotearoa 60 million years ago when it was part of the Gondwana supercontinent that included South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, and Australia. The hypothesis is that all ratites shared a common ancestor and evolved into different species after the continent split up.
  • The male kiwi call is different from the female call! Listen to the difference below.
Male North Island Brown kiwi call
Female North Island Brown kiwi call


  • Kiwi can sense through their beaks! Recent research found that while kiwi can’t see very well, they make up for it with sensory pits at the tips of their beaks. This allows them to sense prey moving underground.
  • According to Māori mythology, the kiwi lost its wings due to a selfless act to save the forest’s trees. Watch the story here.


Kākāpō are one of the rarest taonga of Aotearoa. The kākāpō population reached a low point of around 50 birds in the 1990s. Amazing progress has been made by Kākāpō Recovery, increasing the population to 210 today. Because of their vulnerability to humans and other predators, kākāpō now live only on protected islands.  

What makes kākāpō special?

  • Kākāpō are one of the longest living birds in the world, reaching up to 90 years old!
  • Their diet is completely vegetarian, and like kiwi, kākāpō are flightless and nocturnal.
  • They are also the heaviest parrot species in the world, with smaller females weighing on average 1.4 kg, and males 2.2 kg!
  • Kākāpō are the only lek-breeding parrots species in the world. Males use their unique ‘booming’ and ‘chinging’ sounds to attract females.
A male ‘boom’ used to attract females. 
A male ‘ching’ used to attract females.


The hihi, or stitchbird, is one of New Zealand’s rarest birds. Before the arrival of Europeans and the mammalian predators and avian diseases that they brought with them, hihi were found throughout the North Island. The only remaining natural population of hihi is found on Te Hauturu-o-Toi, Little Barrier Island.

Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now small managed populations of hihi in bird sanctuaries such as Tiritiri Matangi and Kapiti Island.

What makes hihi special?

  • Hihi feed on nectar, fruit, and invertebrates. To avoid competition with other honeyeaters, such as tui and korimako / bellbirds, they feed in the understorey and shrub layers of the forest.
  • Hihi are one of only two honeyeaters in the world that nest in tree hollows.
  • Hihi sometimes mate face to face, the only birds known to do so!
  • Like many birds, hihi are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the male and female differ in appearance. The female is olive brown, while the male is bright yellow, black, and white.
  • Both male and female have a noisy call. Listen below.

Sources, with thanks.

New Zealand Birds Online
Kiwi For Kiwis
Department of Conservation
Kākāpō image: Department of Conservation
Sound recordings: Department of Conservation

Connect through citizen science


  • Find out if you have a local survey area. Search your local beaches here.
  • Get more info about monitoring your local beach here.

Sometimes, connecting with nature is about connecting with the issues our environment is facing. Our Litter Intelligence citizen scientists visit their local beach every three months to collect data on the litter that has accumulated there.

These data contribute to a national litter database that enables Aotearoa’s problem-solvers to understand the issues and design the best solutions.

We love this because citizen scientists are not only connecting with their local beach, but they’re also working to protect it.


Are your local beaches monitored? 

Type them into the search bar one at a time on the Litter Intelligence website to find out.

  • If one of your local beaches pops up, click through to the most recent survey. Here, you can see the exact stretch of coastline that is monitored on each survey.
  • How clean is your beach? Find out here.
  • What’s the most common piece of litter picked up? Does this ring true when you visit the beach?
Julie_Chandelier_SCTeAtatu-42 copy

Get involved!

If none of your local beaches is currently monitored, how about starting a survey area yourself? You’ll need at least two other people and be able to commit to a fun training day and to monitor your site every three months. Anyone can get involved — existing community groups, school groups, or you and your kids or friends! Get more info here.


An awesome way to connect

For us, spending time at the beach and seeing what’s found is an amazing way to connect to them. It reinforces our kaitiakitanga (guardianship) over our coasts and enables us to provide invaluable information to protect them for future generations and the wildlife that inhabits them.

In Aotearoa, it’s not hard to find people that love the beach. But how much do we know about our coasts and oceans? We’ve put together the resources below to educate and inspire, bringing people closer to the beaches they love.

All of these resources are free to use! Use the button underneath the resources to download the content. Please credit the photographers where noted, and tag #ConnectWithNature and @sustainablecoastlines on social media.

We also want to see how you connect with nature. Check out our #NatureGivesMe campaign!

If you find our resources valuable, please consider making a donation to help us create a world with beautiful beaches, healthy waters and inspired people.

Learn more about coasts and oceans

Videos, quotes, and facts to share

Te reo ocean words

Proverbs and quotes


Did you know?

Proverbs and quotes


Dive deeper!

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Connect with marine animals

In Aotearoa, we’re lucky to have a diversity of marine species enter our waters. Protecting them is a main motivator for people taking part in our beach clean-ups. Find out about some of these inspirational animals here.

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Colour for our coasts

Try this ocean-themed colouring in from PangeaSeed’s Sea Walls, a project that takes the pressing issues that the oceans are facing to streets around the world. They recreate the murals as colouring-in books to help people connect to the art and the issues at home.


Connect with your local beach

We believe that connecting with nature is also about connecting with the issues our environment is facing. That’s why citizen science is an awesome way to truly get in touch with your local beach. Find out more here.

Oceans above fold


Check out some of our team’s recommendations for the best ocean podcasts and films. Learn about the threats facing our moana and be inspired by the fantastic world that lies beneath its surface.

Explore the rest of our Connect With Nature resources!

The production of the Connect With Nature content series was
made possible with the generous support of SC Johnson.

What's the problem?

We all know that smoking is bad for our health, but it’s also bad for our planet. Cigarette butts are the most littered plastic item in the entire world! It’s a common misconception that cigarette butts quickly biodegrade. In reality, the filter is made out of plastic cellulose acetate fibres.

Since cigarettes are so easily littered on the street, they quickly end up in our waterways and eventually, our moana. They leach nicotine and heavy metals into our waters and end up as microplastic pollution.

It is estimated by Keep New Zealand Beautiful that we have about 10 billion cigarette butts strewn across our country. That’s about 2,000 cigarette butts out in our nature per New Zealander! This is despite the fact that New Zealand has one of the lowest tobacco smoking rankings in the entire world, showing that this is a massive issue worldwide!

Small changes for big impact

Change your behaviour

Not smoking is the simple answer, but if you’re not ready to quit, always make sure your cigarette butts are disposed of responsibly. Because there aren’t always dedicated butt bins nearby, we recommend carrying a tin box with you — a repurposed mint tin is perfect!

Spread awareness! Tell others about this issue. It’s a very common belief that cigarette butts are biodegradable; set people straight and help them make an informed decision about what to do with their butts.

Get involved!

Organise your own cigarette butt, coastline or street clean up! Request a Sustainable Coastlines DIY kit and head out to your local park, pub or other area! Count your butts, take some pictures and share them!

Too busy to do a clean-up yourself but still want to help out? Leave a donation!

Want to get more involved with the work we do at Sustainable Coastlines? Become a member!