Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Foss Beach cleanup

Thanks to the guys from the USS Memphis who picked up 250 lbs of trash from Foss Beach on Tuesday July 19th! We found 122 pieces of rope > 1 m, including one large tangle of ropes and nets that weighted over 70 lbs!

For our full list of upcoming cleanups, visit

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sad Spongebob Sighting

I spent the afternoon on a whale watch, seeing majestic creatures do majestic things. Here's my least-favorite sighting of the day - a mylar balloon, approximately 20 miles out at sea.  How coincidental that it appears to be a Spongebob Squarepants balloon!

Despite what the balloon industry says, balloons are dangerous to marine life, who can swallow them and/or get entangled in the strings. We see balloons all the time on our whale watches (hundreds each summer, in fact - go here to map them out), and can't always stop to pick them up - so please, always dispose of balloons responsibly!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Does Carry In, Carry Out Work?

Hampton Beach, Spring 2009.
Courtesy Linda Gebhart
The Portsmouth Herald reported today on the problem of litter at area beaches, citing data from on the top 5 debris types collected at our Jenness Beach cleanups in Rye, NH (cigarette butts, bottle caps, rope, plastic bags, and straws). Surprisingly, at a cleanup last week, a syringe was found, something relatively unusually for that beach, but very dangerous considering the huge numbers of beachgoers expected this holiday weekend.

In the article, businesses across the street lamented the lack of trash bins at the beach - a product of the "Carry In, Carry Out" policy at state beaches - saying that people will often walk across the street to the beach businesses to ask them to dispose of their trash.  One, Tyler McGill of Summer Sessions Surf Shop said, "The idea of 'carry-in, carry-out' is a great in concept," McGill said. "The reality is people aren't going to."

We worked with Dr. Jenna Jambeck at the University of New Hampshire on a survey about attitudes toward marine debris in 2006-2007. We asked about the state's Carry In, Carry Out policy, and of 472 respondents, 54% said "I think garbage cans should be provided, and I would use them," while 35% said, "It doesn't make a difference to me, I just bring my trash home."  Fifty-three percent of respondents also said that having trash bins would be most effective at deterring litter at the beach.
Hampton Beach, Spring 2009.
Courtesy Linda Gebhart

But trash bins, and monitoring them, cost money - and may also attract pests.  Amy Bassett, public information officer for NH State Parks, was quoted saying, "I think (carry-in, carry-out) is a program that's successful in a lot of places...I do think it adds to your experience of the natural setting. It puts that responsibility on us, meaning me as a user."

I have mixed feelings on the issue. I agree we should all be responsible for our trash. But beaches in many places provide trash bins as an amenity, and it's definitely convenient. I visited beaches in Florida and Hawai'i over the winter and saw trash cans, but no wildlife or birds around them. And I'll admit, there was still some litter on the beach, despite the trash bins.

What do you think - does Carry In, Carry Out work? What is needed to keep our beaches litter-free?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Project Represented at National Marine Educator's Conference

This week, I had the opportunity to do two talks about our work at the National Marine Educator's Conference in Boston, MA.  Although it's called the National Marine Educator's conference, attendees included people from not just the continental U.S., but Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa and even Australia. Despite the differences in the environments in which we work, the challenges seem to be similar, and there have been some themes in the talks I've been to:

  • How to better integrate the oceans into what kids are learning in school (one presentation mentioned that 50% of people in the U.S. live within 50 miles of the coast, and even in coastal areas, there is very little taught about the oceans and their importance!); 
  • Working with volunteers - how important they are in marine education;
  • Increasing learning about the oceans by using a multi-disciplinary approach, such as incorporating art and nature journaling;
  • Using partnerships to accomplish our goals.
One of my talks was on the successful partnership established through the Marine Debris to Energy Project - made up of Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, NH Sea Grant, UNH Cooperative Extension and the University of Georgia, and how we've been able to do even more marine debris removal work by working with the NH Commercial Fishermen's Association, NH Fish and Game, and NH Port Authority. We've removed over 60 tons of marine debris from the environment in about 15 months - something that couldn't have happened without us all working together!

I also spoke about our Whales & Marine Debris web site, which maps sightings of whales and litter. I was happy to have lots of formal and informal educators in the room, and to hear their feedback. We've been working on lesson plans to accompany the site, which we'll be sending to them to hopefully test out. We'll also post it here once we get it uploaded to the web.

I'm headed down to Boston again today and looking forward to talks on whales, marine debris, and more on integrating marine science experiences into classrooms.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!