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.
Last weekend my coworkers and I had the unique opportunity to get our feet wet in Mobile Bay and help our partners build a living shoreline. This amazing restoration project took place at Pelican Point near Fairhope, Alabama. Over 600 volunteers, including 300 airmen from Keesler Air Force Base, turned out early Saturday morning to help construct what in a few years will become an oyster reef teeming with life.
A living shoreline is an innovative approach to protecting an eroding shoreline, as well as creating habitat for the creatures that live in the bay. The Pelican Point living shoreline was created using structures called “oyster castles,” which are made up of interlocking concrete blocks. These concrete blocks weigh about 35 pounds each, so volunteers not only got to participate in building a reef, they also got a great workout! Continue reading »
Celebrating a successful Cleanup in South Africa. Credit: Thomene Dilley
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Well…a group of 600,000 people is not exactly small, but the dedication and commitment displayed by International Coastal Cleanup volunteers is changing the world in a very meaningful way. Once again I am awed and inspired by the incredible efforts put forth by ordinary citizens to rid beaches and waterways around the world of trash; culminating in a healthier, more resilient ocean.
‘Success’ is often the term used by organizers and volunteers alike following the International Coastal Cleanup, but personally I find this term to be an interesting –perhaps even perverse—way to define a Cleanup event. Removing millions of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways is unquestionably cause for celebration, but actual success will be the day when we no longer need the Cleanup because we’ve stopped trash from occurring in the first place.
Regardless of how you define the Cleanup though, there can be no dispute over what to call the volunteer effort: remarkable and unparalleled. Whether you picked up a single bottle or hauled a 500-pound fishing net off a beach yesterday, thank you for participating in the International Coastal Cleanup. Without the extraordinary contributions from Cleanup Coordinators and Volunteers around the world, the International Coastal Cleanup would not exist—You are the Cleanup. Continue reading »
Hilberto Riverol of The Scout Association of Belize has coordinated the International Coastal Cleanup for his country over the past 20 years, teaching scouts how they can help keep the ocean clean and healthy. Credit: John Carrillo.
So back in 1992 when Hilberto Riverol, national scout executive with the association, heard that the Ramada Hotel in Belize City was gathering volunteers for the country’s first International Coastal Cleanup, he signed up. Some 600 participants including the scouts removed more than three tons of trash from approximately 18 miles of the coast. Continue reading »
Yoshiko Ohkura (center) of JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network) cleans a beach at Gamo Tidal Flat. Credit: Nick Mallos.
How much are some people willing to give to solve the problem of ocean trash? In the case of the amazing partners who organize the International Coastal Cleanup across entire countries and U.S. states, the answer is: everything they have.
We call them the “sea stars of the Cleanup.” Meet just two, Azusa Kojima and Yoshiko Ohkura from JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network).
Like their fellow coordinators around the world, they manage a host of responsibilities, including:
identifying sites on the water to be cleaned and overseeing those sites;
educating the public and rallying a volunteer network;
engaging reporters from radio, television, newspapers and online news sources;
arranging cleanup day logistics; and
ensuring that data collected by volunteers reaches Ocean Conservancy for publication in the annual Ocean Trash Index.
JEAN’s efforts on behalf of the Cleanup for more than 20 years are legion. Now the recognized marine debris leader in Japan, JEAN unified existing cleanup efforts and inspired more participation by educating the public about the dangers of ocean trash. From 800 volunteers at 80 sites in 1990, JEAN has grown the Cleanup exponentially, with more than 22,000 volunteers at 234 sites in the peak year to date.
It’s no surprise that California’s new ocean parks protect vital marine wildlife and habitat – that’s what they’re designed to do. The new system of underwater protected areas is also intended to improve recreational and study opportunities. Now an innovative volunteer partnership confirms that from Los Angeles to the Central Coast, California’s Marine Protected Areas are providing a popular playground for surfing, swimming, scuba diving and other beach activities. As Center for a Blue Economy Director Jason Scorse pointed out recently, this access to natural beauty is also one of California’s greatest economic strengths.