Headed to the beach on this sunshine daydream weekend? Do your part to keep Earth beautiful, and pack a trash bag in your beach bag! The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup begins Saturday, September 17, and local volunteers are fanning out all across Maine’s 3,375 miles of coastline to pick up over 20,000 pounds of trash.
That’s right—20,000 pounds of trash. Worldwide, 800,000 volunteers collected 18 million pounds of trash during the 2015 Coastal Cleanup! And that’s just the trash we can see from the surface. Human waste and litter makes its way into ocean waters through deliberate dumping, windblown waste, runoff into storm drains, shipping container spillage and much more. And once it makes it way to the sea, it spreads everywhere. Scientists have discovered trash bags in deep sea coral reefs and documented Antarctic fur seals tangled in plastics.
The results are terrible for our oceans—and for our ecosystem:
- From plastic trash bags to abandoned fishing nets, marine animals are constantly caught and killed by floating trash. Dolphins, sea turtles, fish and seabirds suffocate or starve entangled in litter.
- Sea creatures often confuse plastic wastes with food, with catastrophic results. Fish confuse microbeads in our soaps with microplanktons, choking them or blocking their digestive systems. (In fact, in many parts of our oceans, plastic particles outnumber plankton!) Sea turtles choke on plastic bags that float like seaweeds. Sea birds fill their bellies with cigarette butts, wrappers and plastic until they always feel full … and slowly starve.
- Larger pieces of debris create navigational hazards that endanger dolphins, seals, fish—and boats.
- Chemicals leaching from waste (or deliberately dumped) contaminate the water and close beaches.
Maine’s Coastal Cleanup is focused on tidewrack—the trash the floats on the surface or is washed onto our beaches by the tide. It’s only the tip of the trash iceberg, but cleaning it up makes our beaches safer for humans and wildlife (not to mention more pleasant).
At Mexicali Blues, we’re right on the Damariscotta River—a stunning tidal waterway that empties into the Atlantic. We spend our summers boating, swimming and sunning ourselves on Maine’s bays and beaches. Maine’s oceans are a place of reflection and renewal, a natural resource rich in wildlife and wonder, and a big part of our tourist economy. Our ocean is so rich—and so fragile—that President Obama just designated the first national Marine Monument in the Atlantic of the coast of New England.
So we want every member of the Mexicali Tribe who is beach-bound to take a trash bag and take part in the Coastal Cleanup. You can put together your own Coastal Cleanup Kit, or you can check out the list of Maine coastal communities looking for Coastal Cleanup volunteers. (Community cleanup groups start this weekend and run through October, and will supply volunteers at area beaches with kits and designated disposal areas.)
When you’re done, let the Ocean Conservancy know how many cigarette butts, plastic bags, cups, wrappers, bottles and cans you’ve collected. They’re building an international database of ocean trash to keep an eye on its impact and dumping trends. Together, we can turn the tide on ocean trash!