Posts Tagged ‘bag that trash’

One Man’s Trash…Does Not Belong In Our Oceans

September 21, 2011

Some of the students who came out to the beach cleanup this Saturday

By Michelle Marraffini, Invertebrate Zoology Lab

This weekend MLML students left the classroom and the lab to participate in the Annual California Coastal CleanUp Day!  Students ventured outside on this gloriously sunny day to help clean up and protect part of the ecosystem we work so hard to understand.  New, continuing, and even graduated MLML students came out to join other volunteers and to put in some dirty work.  According to the Save Our Shores website, this September 17th volunteers at over 81 cleanup sites, from Wadell Creek in the north to the Big Sur coast in the south, helped prevent over 17,000 pounds of pollution from entering 157 miles of beaches, rivers, lakes, creek, and sloughs.  If you missed this year’s annual clean up day don’t worry, Save Our Shores hosts a monthly cleanup in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.  For more information, including how to sign up for a beach clean-up, visit

One Student's trash from beach combing

A bucket filled with trash from Moss Landing State Beach

How many of my plastic bottles are floating in the Pacific?

May 27, 2011

The “throwaway” mentality is not a sustainable method of living.  The current status of our Pacific garbage patch, which is full plastic, is staggering, and it is growing.  Chalres Moore gives an excellent TED talk about why plastics are harmful and what we should do to halt the rate of plastics into the environment.  In Kure and Midway atolls many Albatross chicks have been dying with plastics, such as cigarette lighters and bottle caps, in their stomachs.  As consumers we can help to make a transition to using less plastic by doing simple things like buying a stainless steel or glass bottle for holding water or reusing a large glass pasta jar instead of buying bottled water!  It is also important to help at local beach cleanups as that trash is then stopped from floating into the ocean.  It’s amazing how each of our little differences can have large effects – just look at how little by little we have filled the middle of the Pacific with floating plastic trash!

Unfortunately throwaway living can be seen directly below the boat moorings at Catalina.

Two Left Feet from the Deep

March 24, 2011

photo: E. Loury

Anyone uncertain about the scope of the human footprint in the ocean just needs to do a deepsea trawl off the coast of southern California.   During a government fish survey, we pulled up everything from weather instruments, army helmets and canteens, to bottles, cans and boots.  The ocean is big, but it can only hide so much if we use it as a dumping ground.  Who knows,  though – maybe these would make good habitat for a shoe crab.  They’re not a matched set, but in a pinch…

Shower of Shovels in a Plastic Ocean

December 1, 2009

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)

Mobilizing Beach Heroes for Coastal Cleanup Day

September 18, 2008
Erin Loury

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

I recently witnessed some true beachside heroism while running (ok, ok, jogging) on my local sandy stretch.  An older couple was out for their morning walk along the beach – and between them they were steadily filling two big bags, one for trash, the other for recycling.  Had my heart not already been pounding from long-overdue exertion, the sight surely would have warmed it to the core.

Give your local beach some love on Sept. 20th, Coastal Cleanup Day!

Give your local beach some love on Sept. 20th, Coastal Cleanup Day!

You too can be a beach hero this Saturday, September 20th.  It’s International Coastal Cleanup Day!  Check out the Ocean Conservancy to find out more and also register for a cleanup near you.  For those of us that study the ocean (or just love it), it’s a great way to say thank you to our coastlines and waterways, to keep them healthy and beautiful.  Trash is an unbelievably big problem in the ocean (think the size of Texas big) and its critters (like the Laysan albatross).  But you can help – check out this video about what the Coastal Cleanup Day is all about!

Obviously, you don’t need to wait for a special day to clean up your beach.  I find it hard to jog pass by an empty Doritos bag or beer can on the sand without picking it up (yeah, I’m one of “those” people, but gosh darn it, I’m proud too!).  While stooping for trash does turn a leisurely run into “red light green light,” it’s amazing how good it feels, in that Captain Planet sort of way.

Deep sea trash from near San Diego. Just part of the bigger mess.

Deep sea trash from near San Diego. Just part of the bigger mess.

When I saw that tidy couple, I made my way over with a discarded plastic bottle in hand, and thanked them for their efforts.  They bagged my bottle and said they were just tired of seeing others trash their favorite spot – so they decided to do something about it.  Simple.   I guess  I could have asked for their names, but perhaps like all superheros they prefer to walk among us, unknown…. (more…)

Balloons are no party for marine wildlife

June 8, 2008

Danielle Frechette

by Danielle Frechette, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Hi, my name is Danielle. I am a graduate student in the Vertebrate Ecology lab, and I need your help with a problem we are having in our ocean right here off the coast of California. I noticed this problem when I was working on a whale watch boat in Monterey Bay.

The winter months (December through April) is gray whale season here in California. Gray whales spend the summer in Alaska, where they feed in cold, nutrient rich waters. At the end of the summer they head down to Mexico, to give birth to their calves and mate in the warm, shallow waters of Baja California. Here in California we are lucky, because they travel right along our coast on their way to and from Mexico. On February 15th and 16th I was out on the whale watch boat, looking for gray whales. We found whales, but we also found balloons. LOTS of balloons.

Each time we saw a balloon, we stopped the boat, and our deckhand used a gaff hook (a long pole with a hook on the end that is normally used for grabbing the lines we use to tie the boat to the dock) to grab the balloon out of the water. During those two days alone, we picked up 14 balloons! Each balloon was either pink, or a heart shaped Mylar balloon, which means they were all probably released on Valentine’s day, either accidentally or on purpose. We only traveled across a small part of Monterey Bay, and if we had traveled across more of the bay, I do not know how many more we would have found!

Fourteen balloons is a lot to find in only two days. It is not unusual, however, to see one or two balloons on an average day of whale watching in Monterey Bay.

Balloons can kill marine wildlife like this Northern fulmar. Note the balloons wrapped tightly around its wing, and hemorrhaged leg (BeachCOMBERS)

One of the problems with balloons is that they can look a lot like jellies. Animals like endangered sea turtles eat jellies, and they can accidentally eat balloons, thinking they are jellies. This seems surprising, that a balloon could be mistaken for food. More than once though, I have looked over the side of my whale watch boat to see a large jelly floating near the surface, but as we got closer, I

realized that it was not a jelly at all, but a big Mylar balloon. If I, with my human brain, can mistake a balloon for a jelly, it is easy to understand how a hungry turtle can make the same mistake!

I don’t only see balloons out in the ocean. Almost every time I go for a walk on the beach, I see balloons all tangles around kelp, driftwood, and even wildlife, like the northern fulmar in this photograph.

I need you to help me figure out how the balloons get out into the ocean. Also, I need you to help me figure out how the balloons affect wildlife like sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals. I would also like you to help me figure out what we can do to help decrease the number of balloons that make it out into the ocean.

You can use these websites to answer the following questions, and help me keep our oceans free of balloons!



1. How do balloons get into the ocean?
2. Give three examples of how marine animals are affected by balloons.
3. What are the laws in California regarding balloons?
4. What can you do to help prevent balloon from harming marine wildlife?


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