The Blog Aquatic » beach http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Gulf of Maine Cleanups Show Ocean Trash Is Global Problem With Local Impacts, Solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 21:50:18 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6565 Scientist aboard American Promise empties a net full of marine debris

Photo: Allison Schutes / Ocean Conservancy

200 miles, 7 beaches, 4 islands and over 7,500 pieces of trash: These numbers can be used to describe my time with Rozalia Project in the Gulf of Maine. But they don’t tell the whole story. Instead “inspiring” seems to capture most of my emotions.

Incredible scenery and wildlife served as the backdrop for the long days we spent collecting and removing trash while living aboard American Promise. Not only were we surrounded by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins as we sailed south from Hurricane Island, but we also had a finback whale come within 5 meters of the boat at sunset. We saw the spouts of another whale in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, and we observed harbor porpoises and seals, a pair of bald eagles and even an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, in Gosport Harbor.

Our crew of 10—eight people and two dogs—were united with one goal: to remove as much trash from the shoreline and ocean surface as possible while recording data about each and every item we removed. Sailing from Bar Harbor to Kittery, Maine, we conducted seven shoreline cleanups on four different islands, and aboard American Promise, we performed three Neuston net tows and multiple dip-net sessions—all resulting in the collection of a lot of trash.

Despite traveling to several remote islands off Maine’s rocky coast, we found many of the same items that top our list during the International Coastal Cleanup every year. Items like food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, foam cups and plates, and bottle caps were prevalent on almost every cleanup conducted while sailing through the Gulf of Maine.

These results are not incredibly surprising because we know that trash travels. Whether carried by the wind, current or human hands, everyday trash is able to make its way to even the most remote of places. For example, I pulled a food wrapper, a cigarette butt and a strap for sunglasses out of the water while sailing 50 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine.

Yet during this journey, single use plastic items were not our biggest finds. Fishing gear, including rope, monofilament line, fishing buoys, pots and traps, and lobster claw bands topped our list of items collected through the entire journey. We even found lobster bands, bleach and beverage bottles with French labels and markings, indicating these items may have started their journey in Canada.

All of these data are further indicative that ocean trash is a global problem with local impacts and local solutions. We all have a role to play in combating ocean trash, and joining us for the 28th International Coastal Cleanup is a great place to start.

Want to get started before the Cleanup? Take the pledge to help turn the tide on ocean trash.

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Surfing Safari No More: Trash Has Arrived in Paradise http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/13/surfing-safari-no-more-trash-has-arrived-in-paradise/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/13/surfing-safari-no-more-trash-has-arrived-in-paradise/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 18:00:48 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6511 surfer

Photo: Colm Walsh via Flickr

Trash travels. It’s a phrase that’s been uttered hundreds, maybe thousands of times to convey the pervasiveness of trash and plastics in our global ocean.

But now trash has infiltrated the lineup—that congregation of surfers floating just beyond the furthest break, each one jockeying to get the jump on the next wave. For me, the lineup has always been a place of simultaneous solitude, camaraderie and exhilaration. It is a firewall between tranquility and unrivaled adrenaline.

Indonesia—better known as “Indo” in the surfing world—is a mecca for surfers seeking some of the world’s most secluded yet infamous breaks. It’s an idyllic place. Placid turquoise seas erupt into mountains of water that break with tremendous power onto razor-sharp reefs just inches below the surface.

Surfers who triumphantly survive barreling tubes in this part of the world are almost surreal and have often earned the brave rider “Wave of the Year” honors.

During a recent trip to Bali, though, surfer and photographer, Zak Noyle, captured images of a new kind of barrel—one that may become as infamous as the waves themselves: waves of trash.

It could be said that the waves were perfect on a recent morning at a remote location in Java, in southern Indonesia.

Perfect, except for the appalling amount of trash and other debris, which transformed the typically amazing experience of getting barreled into one that left both surfer and photographer feeling nauseated.

What can we do to keep our breaks a little cleaner and prevent these waves of trash from crashing on our shores?

For starters, I’ll be paddling out on Sept. 21 to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup, and I hope you’ll join me at your local break or on a beach or waterway near you.

We can also make small changes in our everyday lives that help reduce our trash impact. Download Ocean Conservancy’s free mobile application, Rippl, to help you make simple, sustainable lifestyle choices.

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What Goes Up Must Come Down: Celebrate the Fourth of July with a July 5 Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/02/what-goes-up-must-come-down-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-with-a-july-5-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/02/what-goes-up-must-come-down-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-with-a-july-5-cleanup/#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 17:00:22 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6216 fireworks

Credit: Jon Rawlinson via Flickr

Watermelon, baseball, cookouts, beach trips and fireworks: Does it get any better than summer? Summer is my favorite season for many reasons, but sitting in the sand with a warm summer breeze while watching fireworks takes me back to being a kid and the sheer joy summer entails.

The Fourth of July is also a day that unites all Americans. No matter where you live, it’s the perfect day to gather with family and friends, spend time outside and end the evening gazing upward at colorful explosions in sky.

But amid the excitement of finding the perfect perch to watch the fireworks display and the rush to beat the traffic after the show concludes, it’s easy to forget all the small pieces of cardboard and plastic that float back down to the ground after the amazing spectacle in the sky. Unfortunately, this debris can end up in our ocean, affecting the health of people, wildlife and economies.

Even in places where fireworks are not allowed on the beach, July Fourth is one of the busiest days of the entire year for our coastlines. A crowded beach not only means it may be tough to find a spot to set your towel, but it also means more trash.

From food wrappers and plastic beverage bottles to cigarette butts, straws and plastic bags, you name it and we’ve found it on the beach during our annual International Coastal Cleanup. These items may be accidently left behind or they may blow out of trash cans, but ultimately they can end up spending years in our ocean, littering our beaches and endangering marine life.

So this week, I challenge you to spend not only one day, July Fourth, at your local shoreline or park, but spend two! Communities all over the country—from Seattle to San Diego and even Washington, D.C.—host beach, waterway and park cleanups on July 5. Volunteers head to the busiest spots to ensure the remnants of all our celebrations don’t end up in the ocean.

To help Ocean Conservancy marine debris specialists get a snapshot of how many fireworks we are finding on our beaches, we’ve added fireworks to the data card that volunteers use to keep track of what they find during cleanups.

I will be participating in a July 5 cleanup in St. Augustine, Florida, armed with our new data card. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you at the beach!

Let us know in comments if you’re planning to join a July 5 cleanup in your area, and share your tips for keeping Independence Day celebrations trash-free.

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Starfish Galaxies: Joshua Cripps Shares the Story Behind His Award-Winning Photo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/07/01/starfish-galaxies-joshua-cripps-shares-the-story-behind-his-award-winning-photo/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 18:00:02 +0000 Lauren Malkani http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6225 Motukiekie Galaxies

Credit: Joshua Cripps

During Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Marine Life and Seascape Photo Contest, we received over 600 entries, showcasing everything from sea turtles to sharks to seashells. Though there were plenty of amazing photographs, only one could be our grand-prize winner.

Photographer Joshua Cripps shares with us the story behind his award-winning photo, “Motukiekie Galaxies”:

What’s the story behind this photo?

I took this photo at Motukiekie Beach on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand during a month-long photography expedition. It’s a remarkable beach full of tide pools, mirror-like sand, massive tidal swings and intriguing sea stacks and caves.

What made you take the photo?

I have a sometimes-dangerous habit of being too curious: “Hmm, what’s just over that cliff?” “Can I jump down into this canyon?” In this case I saw some tide pools right at the water’s edge and wanted to go investigate them, despite the fact that the water was rising quickly and I knew I’d probably get soaked by going out there.

But once I rock-hopped out to the tidal pools, I found hundreds of these 12-legged sea stars clinging to the rocks. That amazing sight, along with the beautiful sea stacks farther out to sea and the moody conditions at the time, left me with no question that I was going to take a photo.

Was it difficult to shoot?

Yes and no. Shooting in the tidal zone is always challenging. You run the risk of being splashed by waves (which isn’t particularly good for your equipment), slipping on wet rocks or having a sneaky wave take you out completely. And yes, all three have happened to me numerous times.

But those experiences have made me more careful and confident in my abilities while shooting the ocean. And thankfully, in this spot the waves were fairly small, especially after being broken up coming through the rocks. So in this case the only real difficulty in getting the shot was dealing with wet feet as the tide rose.

How did you feel being there and taking the photo?

Like I’d found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. From my prior scouting, I knew how much potential this beach had for good photography, but I didn’t know exactly what I’d find when I hopped out toward these particular rocks.

When I saw the hundreds of starfish clinging to the rocks, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Those sea stars—which, being from California, I found incredibly exotic—along with the stormy conditions of the day made me want to create as surreal and alien a photo as I could, so I used some long exposures to render the incoming waves as mist. And when the images on the back of my camera started to match my vision of the scene, it was an incredibly validating and rewarding feeling.

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Volunteers Help Protect Baby Sea Turtles From Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/01/volunteers-help-protect-baby-sea-turtles-from-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/01/volunteers-help-protect-baby-sea-turtles-from-ocean-trash/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 12:30:39 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5604 baby sea turtle heads toward the surf

Credit: nps.gov

Starting today, hundreds of volunteers will begin heading to the beach every morning just before sunrise in search of tracks left by some exciting visitors: female sea turtles coming ashore under the cloak of darkness to lay their eggs.

May 1 marks the start of sea turtle nesting season in the southeast United States; it’s the only time of year when these animals return to dry sand after spending almost their entire lives in the ocean. Female sea turtles tend to return to the same stretch of beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. After hatching, baby sea turtles must dig their way out of the sand and sprint to the surf while avoiding predators ranging from foxes and raccoons to sea birds and ghost crabs.

The dedicated volunteers who walk these beaches every morning look for signs of new sea turtle nests so that they can monitor and protect the nest sites and track how many turtles hatch. Yet on most walks, these volunteers find more trash on the beach than sea turtle tracks.

While many man-made obstacles—from coastal development and artificial lighting to fishing and hunting—threaten sea turtles, trash is one threat that travels great distances and is present both on land and in the ocean. It is also entirely preventable.

We know that when trash items reach our ocean, they pose a severe ingestion risk for sea turtles, especially given the close resemblance of trash items like floating plastic grocery bags to a sea turtle’s favorite food: jellyfish. However, we don’t know much about the types of interactions sea turtles have with trash while coming ashore to nest.

Unfortunately, much of what we know about the interaction between sea turtles and trash is the result of studying dead and stranded sea turtles. In order to take a more proactive approach to learning about the potential for interaction between nesting sea turtles and trash, Ocean Conservancy is teaming up with the dedicated volunteers of the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project to pilot a new initiative.

Many of these volunteers already pick up trash on their morning turtle walks and even report what they find to Wrightsville Beach Keep It Clean. This season, volunteers will be equipped with an Ocean Conservancy data card for their sunrise turtle walks. The data card will help keep track of the individual trash items collected while patrolling for turtle tracks.

Once we receive these reports about turtle nests and trash, we can overlay the two data layers and start to learn more about the potential interaction turtles have with trash when they come ashore to nest. As we begin to learn more about stretches of beach more likely than others to yield trash-turtle interactions, we can implement mitigation strategies appropriate for that particular municipality or beach community. We are very excited to get this new initiative going and look forward to expanding this project along the East Coast.

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Celebrating a Big Week for California Coasts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/21/celebrating-a-big-week-for-california-coasts/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/21/celebrating-a-big-week-for-california-coasts/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2012 17:59:20 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3978 Marin headlands shoreline and Golden Gate Bridge

Penny Harmeyer, Photo Contest 2011

California coasts—and all of the wildlife and people who enjoy them—are having “the best week ever.”

North Coast protected areas go into effect

Earlier this week, we celebrated the official completion of California’s statewide network of underwater parks—the first in the nation—as the North Coast marine protected areas went into effect.

As our own Jennifer Savage wrote, earlier in the week, this completed network marks the culmination of many years’ work, and protected areas will go a long way toward ensuring that ocean wildlife can thrive:

From the Oregon border to the Mexican border, the fish, birds, mammals and plants that depend on the dynamic habitats of the California coast now have a series of reserves and conservation areas that will allow their populations to recover where needed and protect them from depletion in the future. Not only is this good for the sea creatures, but a thriving ocean benefits all of California, from the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries to all aspects of the state’s tourism-dependent economy …

Sea otter restrictions lifted in California waters

California’s conservation victories continued this week with news that the “otter-free zone” off the coast of California is being eliminated, allowing sea otters to swim freely throughout the region.

Allowing these important predators to expand into and migrate through the nearshore environment will result in real ecosystem benefits, says Lilian Carswell of the National Fish and Wildlife Service. “It gives a richness and integrity to our natural system.”

President Obama to expand national marine sanctuaries

And finally, in a triple-win for the coastal state, President Obama announced plans to expand two of California’s national marine sanctuaries and permanently ban oil drilling along more than 50 miles of Northern California coast.

The proposed expansion will more than double the size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, enlarging them by 2,771 square miles.

“This area is a national treasure,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who led sanctuary expansion efforts. “It needs and it deserves permanent protection from oil and gas exploration.”

The sanctuary expansion effort is expected to take up to two years to complete.

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Plight of Albatross Inspires Scientist to Clean Up Beaches http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/10/plight-of-albatross-inspires-scientist-to-clean-up-beaches/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/10/plight-of-albatross-inspires-scientist-to-clean-up-beaches/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2012 20:09:59 +0000 Sarah van Schagen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2185 Albatross on Midway Atoll

Credit: Nick Mallos

How do scientists choose their life’s work? For avid surfer Nick Mallos, a love of the ocean made marine biology an easy choice. But it was a black-and-white bird with a 6-foot wingspan that inspired him to focus his research on marine debris and clean up as many beaches as he can.

Nick first encountered the Laysan albatross during a grad school research trip to Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. With over 450,000 nesting pairs, Midway Atoll is home to the largest Laysan population in the world. The birds cover the 2.4 square-mile area, nesting in every available nook, from abandoned WWII gun turrets to grassy cracks in the pavement.

But once you look beyond those birds, “you realize there’s this scattering of plastic over the entire island,” Nick says. “It’s impossible to not see plastic – it’s just everywhere. The most perverse part of it is that it’s most heavily concentrated around every nest.”

Plastic fragments in a dead albatross skeleton

Credit: Nick Mallos

That’s because most of the plastic on the island arrives in the gullets of the adult albatross who accidentally ingest it while fishing at sea. Then they regurgitate that food-and-plastic mixture when feeding their chicks. Scientists estimate that some 4.5 metric tons of plastic arrive on the island every year in the stomachs of the albatross.

“It’s just very surreal being in this beautiful environment where the waters are as turquoise blue as you can imagine and the beaches are pure white, and then you see this array of unnatural color across the island, which is all plastics,” Mallos says.

The inner core of the island is littered with small, fragmented plastics like bottle caps, toothbrushes and cigarette lighters – all carried there by the birds.

“I was 1,200 miles from Oahu, the nearest urban center, and there were consumer products everywhere,” Mallos says. “I could have outfitted an entire bathroom cabinet with what I saw there.”

That realization really got him thinking about the full scale of the ocean trash issue. Six months later, he joined Ocean Conservancy as a marine debris specialist and has since worked to better understand how trash affects our ocean and how we can prevent it from reaching our beaches in the first place.

What motivates you to participate in beach cleanups?

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