A new launch system for Ilfracombe Harbour’s WasteShark is nearing completion.

The WasteShark on the prowl for waste. Picture: Nick Kindon / WWF-UKThe WasteShark on the prowl for waste. Picture: Nick Kindon / WWF-UK

Ilfracombe Harbour staff have been presented with a custom built cage, trolley and waterproof cover for ‘Sharkie’ – the aquatic drone which is designed to clear unwanted debris such as plastics and oil from the waterway.

The items have been donated by RMB Chivenor’s Commando Logistic Regiment and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association.

They will be used to transport the WasteShark from its home to the new bespoke launch system at the harbour, once complete.

The new system is being set up specifically for Ilfracombe’s tidal range by harbour staff and The Shark Ambassadors – local residents who have volunteered their time to help with the operation of Sharkie.

Ilfracombe harbourmaster Georgina Carlo-Paat at the launch of the WasteShark at Ilfracombe Harbour. Picture: Nick Kindon-WWF-UKIlfracombe harbourmaster Georgina Carlo-Paat at the launch of the WasteShark at Ilfracombe Harbour. Picture: Nick Kindon-WWF-UK

Once complete and Covid-19 restrictions ease, Sharkie will be launched in the harbour on a more regular basis.

Ilfracombe harbourmaster, Georgina Carlo-Paat, said: “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines Chivenor and the North Devon branch of the Royal Marine Association for all their hard work developing these items for us to house ‘Sharkie’, the resulting cage, trolley and cover are brilliant and have moved the completion of the project a huge step closer.”

North Devon Councils lead member for the environment, councillor Netti Pearson, added: “’Sharkie’ is a real asset to Ilfracombe and as a resident of the town I look forward to seeing it back in action. I was at the launch last year, it is a novel way to raise awareness of the amount of plastic waste that washes up in the harbour and is a useful tool for measuring and reducing other pollutants in the water.

“The new equipment will make it easier to launch ‘Sharkie’, and house it safely, so we will be able to see it in action more often.”

The WasteShark makes its own way around Ilfracombe Harbour. Picture: Nick Kindon / WWF-UKThe WasteShark makes its own way around Ilfracombe Harbour. Picture: Nick Kindon / WWF-UK

Chairman of the Royal Marines Association in North Devon, John Peel, said: “It is a great pleasure to able to support projects when they come around and the ‘Sharkie’ project has been yet again an opportunity to collaborate in a positive way and continue to enhance relationships.

“We look forward to being able to come back to Ilfracombe for future events.”

The drone was first launched in Ilfracombe in March 2019 and has been stored away during the winter months.

The launch system has been funded with a grant from North Devon AONB and other local contributions.

Once launched, the drone has the capabilities to gather air and water quality data, and filter chemicals out of the water such as oil, arsenic, and heavy metals through filtering pads

Sharkie is controlled by harbour staff alongside the Shark Ambassadors and all waste recovered from it will be deposited in the Ocean Recovery Project bins at Ilfracombe Harbour, then collected by North Devon Council for sorting.

Ocean Recovery will then recycle the separated plastic waste into pellets, which can in turn be made into kayaks and composite flooring.