Shower of Shovels in a Plastic Ocean

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Playtime's over - when toys are left on the beach, they're no better than trash. (photo: E. Loury)

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

Do you remember that big storm that soaked the central coast in mid October?  What I remember most is not how scary the driving was in that first big rain of the season, or the sound of the downpour on my roof – what stands out for me is the pile of shovels the storm left in its wake.

Yes, shovels.  When the weather cleared, I paid a visit to my local beach to observe the fall-out.   The sand was strewn with kelp, and fair amount of trash.  But what floored me were the nine, count’em nine plastic shovels pictured above that I picked up in a half-mile stretch of beach.   Not to mention passing a few other beach walkers with colorful shovels in their hands too!

So you’re thinking, what’s the big deal?  A bunch of kids left their shovels on the beach.  Consider this: even if those shovels  were buried in the deepest of sand moats, a good storm can unearth them and sweep them out to sea.  Add a few spin-and-tumble cycles in the surf zone, and suddenly a happy, harmless shovel is reduced to a plastic pile of marine debris.

And marine debris is a Big Deal, especially of the plastic variety:

Learn more about science conducted on marine debris by checking out the SEAPLEX expedition page for more info.  Miriam at the Oyster’s Garter also has many great posts on this subject if you want to learn more.

You can be a beach hero by conducting your own Coastal Cleanup Day at your local beach after a storm.   And remember to pack out those toys you pack in when visiting the beach with kids in tow.  Just think of all the lonely pails out there.

Shovels + Wave Action = Harmful Marine Debris (photo: E. Loury)

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One Response to “Shower of Shovels in a Plastic Ocean”

  1. Best of the Drop-In 2009 « The Drop-In to Moss Landing Marine Labs Says:

    [...] In warmer climates, Mariah wrote about the case of missing sperm whale teeth in Fiji, while Shelby witnessed coral spawning in Panama. Shaara described the delicate process of ageing a skate, and Erin wrote about trawling for plankton soup, the shifty eyes of flatfish, and the danger of plastic shovels. [...]

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