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This year, we're working on surveying and cleaning-up marine debris in places we haven't looked for trash (at least officially) before, including the Isles of Shoals—9 islands about 5 miles off the coast of NH and ME. A recent post reported on a scouting trip to Appledore Island—the largest island, at 95 acres. This island lies in Maine and is the home of the Shoals Marine Lab, run by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. We work closely with UNH (primarily NH Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension) on our Marine Debris to Energy Project, so these existing relationships made Appledore a logical first choice for a survey and cleanup.
On Monday, June 11, we took the fishing vessel Yesterday’s Storm, captained by Lee Schatvet, out to the island. Five of us picked up 557 pounds of debris over about 1/2 mile of coastline. We focused on 4 areas that were relatively accessible and could be cleaned-up with minimal disturbance to nesting gulls, although the gulls nest everywhere - next to the boat dock, near the dining hall, and in the shrubs along the paths, so they often surprised us! The island is also crawling with poison ivy, which made the day even that much more of an adventure.
We cleaned Smith Cove, took a break at the pre-arranged lunchtime for a delicious meal provided by Shoals Marine Lab, and then cleaned Broad Cove, where we found a huge amount of plastic bottles, along with a full, unopened case of bottled water. We tried to clean at Larus Ledge, but only managed to pick up a plastic bottle, crushed lobster trap and piece of wood before the swooping gulls made us decide to re-visit this area in September, when we plan to come back to re-survey and clean again. Then we cleaned at the Swimming Hole, where we again found lots of debris - much of it near a gull who threatened us by picking up a dried crab claw, but in the end, did no harm as we removed nearby plastic, rope, and a bait bag.
After a long, successful (depending on how you look at it - who wants to go out to an island 5 miles offshore and find that much trash?), we had found 323 pieces of debris, including 46 plastic bottles, 9 balloons, 12 lobster traps (10 were deemed unfishable, 2 were still usable and their owners were called by Officer Dave Testaverde of Maine Dept. of Marine Resources), many pieces of plastic and Styrofoam and 3 disks from the Hooksett wastewater treatment plant spill on 3/6/11.
Thanks to NOAA and the Fishing for Energy Partnership, Shoals Marine Lab, Lee Schatvet and the Yesterday's Storm and ME Dept. of Marine Resources for their help! We are now planning a cleanup for Star Island later in the summer, and hopefully will get to some of the other islands this year, as well as revisiting Appledore in the fall.