Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We've been busy- Part II-White and Seavey Islands

Last week was a crazy, exhausting, fun and an eye-opening week.  What I am learning about marine debris and derelict fishing gear and how to go about cleaning it up and putting a positive face on it is at once really interesting and extremely frustrating.  Along with working with volunteers and other partners, we also have to work within the confines of the law regarding what derelict/abandoned fishing gear can actually be touched - if it can be touched and removed at all.  We are very conscious of this with this project and we spend many hours on back and forth emails and telephone calls trying to figure out how on earth we can remove some of the trashed, unfishable lobster traps that we find both on the mainland and on the Isles of Shoals.  By law- no one except the owner of the lobster trap and buoys or a New Hampshire Fish and Game Officer can touch or remove any lobster gear regardless of its condition- unless said owners or CO's (conservation officers) give permission. 

So, knowing this, it is incredibly frustrating to see traps piling up on our beaches, underwater and on the Isles of Shoals.  While I understand why the law is in place, I wonder why it is so difficult to have some means by which any trashed, unfishable pot or buoy, that has obviously been there for years, can't be considered abandoned and thus, litter, and thus, free to be removed and disposed of.  I understand it is a slippery slope and one we are trying to navigate as we proceed with our debris removals. HOWEVER, having said all of this- it is with great appreciation and thanks to Conservation Officer Erik Floutte, that I go on to report on last week's White Island and Seavey Island clean-up!

On a previous post about the White Island Survey that we conducted earlier in the summer, we reported that there were numerous abandoned traps and other debris and that it was surprising how much was out there. Little did we know how many traps and other debris was out there and how long Dan and Melissa Hayward, who are in charge of the Tern Restoration Project on White Island, had been staring at it with no way of dealing with it.  As we began tackling the giant pile of traps, buoys, wood and other accumulated debris on the shore of White, Dan Hayward simply said " I have been looking at this pile of debris for 16 years". 16 years.

This giant pile of traps and other debris was the first thing that greets you upon setting foot on White

Our day began very early. We left Rye Harbor at 7 AM aboard the Yesterday's Storm with a skiff in tow and 5 volunteers including Anna Manyak one of  NOAA's Marine Debris Program Regional coordinators. We met Dan Hayward and his intern and began to strategize about the best way to begin.  

We had wanted to get an early start to take advantage of the extra help we had and also so that we could finish the clean up on the early side because we would have an extra couple of hours of unloading and disposing of the debris once we got back to Rye.  

Once the CO arrived we could begin. Equipped with volunteers and supervision and approval to remove unfishable traps by NH Fish and Game CO Floutte, we began to tug, pull, yank and  dig this tangle of plastic covered metal apart and began to load the skiff.  As we tackled this giant pile, we also split up so that some of us began to collect and remove other marine debris from the White shoreline including plastic bottles, plastic bits, loads of styrofoam, metal, nails and other litter.  

Another group of us headed over to Seavey Island, which is immediately adjacent to White, to begin surveying and assessing the best way to remove gear and other debris without disturbing the roseate terns that were still there.  With the consent of the CO, we began to pile up the derelict traps above the high tide mark and began to remove as much of the other litter as we could because we would eventually run out of time and room on the Yesterday's Storm.  We did remove all of the non-gear litter that we found on Seavey but will have to return to remove the 14 or so traps that were left.

In the meantime- the giant pile of traps and wood on White was getting smaller and smaller as we removed them and transferred them from shore to skiff to Yesterday's Storm

NH Fish and Game Conservation officer Erik Floutte overseeing the trap handling.  Notice the three traps on the left that he determined could be returned to their owner. Also not the significant reduction in the size of the pile! Seavey Island was once again visible!
In the end we could not remove every trap from that pile because we did run out of room on the boat.  Lee Schatvet, the Captain of the Yesterday's Storm, said that his boat was listing to the left a few inches from the weight of the debris and on the steam home he noted that we were a knot or two slower than normal, again because of the weight of the debris.

The Yesterday's Storm- filled to the brim!
It was an exhausting day! We grudgingly had to acknowledge that the Yesterday's Storm could not hold any more debris AND have enough room for us! We made the hard decision to leave the traps on Seavey and the rest of the traps on White (which were also buried under a heavy pile of wood debris) for a later date.  The crater that was left after we removed most of the enormous pile was really ugly and garish and initially I felt badly- that we would be leaving the island in such as state, but then I remembered that the pile had been growing for 16 years and that for the first time in 16 years that pile was no longer an identifying feature on the shoreline of this beautiful island refuge. All told we removed approximately 66 derelict, unfishable lobster traps from White Island and in reality it was probably closer to 75 traps if we were to put all of the pieces of trap back together!  

With an average weight of 40 lbs we estimate that we loaded somewhere in the neighborhood of 2600+ lbs of derelict gear and about 150-200 lbs of other marine debris.  We are still waiting to find out the actual tonnage from Waste Management but we all guessed how much we actually hauled back.  

What we removed from White filled a 30 yard dumpster...
Despite the law, we had a really successful clean up. We had a great CO that worked well with us and tried very hard to explain what some of the challenges were from his end of things which was really good to know for future reference. He also returned 3 fishable traps to their owner (who said he lost them 8 years ago). 

Although we couldn't take every trap and every buoy off the islands on this trip we did make significant headway and we left White and Seavey Islands that much better and safer for the terns who nest there. We also broke the cycle of debris accumulation on White and we predict that we will never remove that much debris in one clean up from these islands again.

And that felt awesome! 

We hope this is something we never see again on White and Seavey! Leave the terns- remove the tire!

Next up...Appledore round 2 and Smuttynose!

Thanks to Lee Schatvet, Capt., Yesterday's Storm, Sue Reynolds, Owner, Uncle Oscar and founder of the Lighthouse Kids,Pete Reynolds, Owner, Granite State, Dan Hayward and Lara from the Tern Restoration Project, The Prospect Mountain High School Outing Club-Alumni (Joe Derrick, Josh Soucie, Dylan Parker. Julie Parker, Cristina Varney), NH Fish and Game, NH Port Authority and NOAA for their help with this cleanup!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We've been busy!!Part 1- Star Island

The view from the hotel on Star island- Appledore Island in front

Our summer of cleaning up as many islands of the Isles of Shoals continues.  On Sunday, August 12th, Jen Kennedy (BOS's executive director) and I went out to Star Island to give an orientation talk to a conference that would be working with us on the clean-up the following afternoon.  Perhaps it was the beauty of the day and the island itself but we had a smaller audience than we had anticipated but Jen gave an excellent talk and it got those that did attend thinking and spreading the word. We went to a brief social hour with the conference attendees and the power of networking- well at least talking to others- really paid off!  While we were trying to garner support and enthusiasm for the clean-up the following day, we started talking to a boat builder who seemed interested in what we were there to do.  He then introduced us to his wife who was an engineering professor at MIT and found out that they were in charge of leading 12 4-6 graders on a visit to neighboring Smuttynose Island the next morning. When they heard that we were trying to survey and clean-up as many of the islands as we could they asked if we would lead the kids the next morning on a survey of marine debris on Smuttynose. We were very excited by the prospect because we could teach the kids and we could get information that we could use when planning our clean-up of Smuttynose in late September! After we got all of that figured out we went to dinner which was family style and pretty good!

After dinner, with the weather still being perfect we set off around the island to see how we would coordinate the volunteers to collect the most debris off as much of the Star Island coastline.

Gosport Harbor, NH

Gosport Harbor, NH
Nightfall on Star

As nightfall was approaching we made note of all the places we thought would be good and safe for the volunteers to go clean.  However, the more we walked around the back side of the island, where most of the derelict traps were, we realized that it might not work to have the volunteers recover the traps since it would require hauling them over pretty steep rocks and in some case through poison ivy to get them to the dock where we would load the boat the following day.  I was growing more concerned as we walked along the rocky coastline because there were a couple of logistical problems that I was anticipating, 1) We would not have the volunteer numbers 2) the volunteers that we may have might not be 'strapping young' ones that could navigate both large pots and rocky terrain and 3) if we lucked out with the volunteers could we even get to all of the traps in the allotted time frame which went from 2 hours to 45 minutes. The only way to really ensure that we got all of the traps off the island would be to do all of it ourselves. So that is what we did!

Rowing to Smuttynose

Smuttynose wading pool!
After we did our quick trip to Smuttynose with the kids- we went back to Star for lunch and after lunch,  armed with some bolt cutters (to get pieces that were trapped in the rocks) and permission to move unfishable traps by the NH Fish and Game Conservation Officer,  we went to work.  The day was hot and the sun was blazing and we began pulling, cutting and hauling traps from under rocks and in between rocks and in bushes so that the volunteers would be able to just collect them and bring them to the dock. Well at least that was our initial vision!
Can you find the trap?

Embedded in sand and rock

The coastal clean-up was scheduled to start at 3:45 pm.  We worked on getting all of the traps that we were given permission to move until 3:15 PM. At that point- exhausted, Jen went to deal with making sure we had a dumpster on the mainland.  I realized that there was no way we would be able to move any of the debris in the time allowed and went into 'deal with it- fast- mode".  Somehow, I managed to rope in three of the strapping, young maintenance staff (read...tan, toned, tall-20 somethings female and males) to commandeer a truck and between the 4 of us we managed to move all of the traps from the rocky cliffs to the truck AND unload them onto the dock to await the ride back to Rye.  I want to stress the impressive efficacy of this trio- they literally did the work in 15 minutes! It was incredible and quite honestly, if we were to give awards they would get the "hauling- a**" of the year award! Without them we would have been up a creek with no paddles!  This also meant that we were able to then oversee a much more laid-back- beach clean-up with a smaller group of volunteers for the 45 minutes that they gave us. Had it not been for Jen and myself and the three staff, I have a feeling this clean-up would have been a bit of a wash.  There were at least 15 traps that we removed and all were massively crushed or tangled.  We estimated that the traps alone were about 600 pounds and the rest of the trash was about 75 lbs.
and...we still smile even though we are hot and smelly!
At 5:30 PM, Lee Schatvet and the Yesterday's Storm pulled up to the dock and the three of us began tossing the pile of trash and traps into the boat! That was fun but also hard work and a big thanks goes to Lee because with out his extra muscles it would have been a really long day!
Lee Schatvet-playing 'trapsket ball'!

the haul...675lbs of debris -some hopefully being recycled or becoming energy...
It was a really long 1.5 days especially in the heat and then dealing with logistics on land and logistics regarding volunteers and equipment.  In the end though, we pulled out a really great, fun and successful clean-up.  We removed approx 675 lbs of debris off of Star Island, got to experience an overnight at the hotel and even got a jump on the Smuttynose Survey! It was also a great experience working with Star Island and the conference and we learned a few things that will help streamline the process for next year.  We definitely enjoyed our trip back on the Yesterday's Storm.

Speeding home to a shower!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cleaning up White...

Light house and breezeway- White Island, NH
White is the color of the clean, the unblemished, the pure and the untouched.  It is also the name of one of New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals and sadly, this island and it's immediate neighbor, Seavey are far from untouched- far from pure.  It is the home of tern colonies and a few interns that spend their summers monitoring the terns, the eggs and the hatchlings every year.  It is a beautiful piece of rock in the Gulf of Maine- much like the other 8 islands.  About 100 yards next to it is Seavey Island which is smaller and even more of a barren rock than White.  On Seavey you see the blinds-little 4x4 foot boxes on stilts the interns use to monitor the terns without disturbing them.   It was these two islands that we visited in order to continue our summer of picking up marine debris and derelict fishing gear off the Isles of Shoals.
Observation blinds on Seavey Island, NH

Getting to White Island was in itself a coordination feat and thanks to Dan Hayward- the man behind the tern conservation project-and his interns Tyler and Lara and to Yesterday’s Storm captain Lee Schatvet- it was possible to this first scouting trip that turned into a mini- clean-up.  The idea, originally, was to go to White for a quick look-see and to get a count of the number of derelict lobster traps that we knew were there and to assess what other marine debris and other trash was out there.   However, with logistics being what they were- we decided that if we could pick it up- we would. 
Early morning, Rye Harbor
We left Rye Harbor at 8:30 in the morning on Friday August 3 and Lee got us to White around 9:15 AM.  We knew that we would have to get a ride from the mooring to the island but I wasn’t really expecting a zodiac that had to be rowed out to us by one of the interns (thanks, Tyler!) and I definitely felt badly for the poor guy who had to lug us out there and back.  Once we got there, the other tern intern, Lara, met us at the ramp and immediately took us over to Seavey because the tide was coming in and we had about a thirty-minute window of opportunity to assess the island and get off before we got stranded.  We crossed the rocky passageway and scrambled over the rocks- all the while making sure we didn’t step on any eggs or tern chicks.  Within a minute or so of stepping onto Seavey- I found a balloon and a string. A few steps further and I picked up my first plastic bottle.  A few minutes later as we made our way a bit higher on the rock we began to see the lobster traps and the buoys and the ropes and the plastic bottles.

The ubiquitous balloon...when we will learn

How many traps can you find in this picture?
The quick survey of Seavey told us that our next clean-up would be concentrated mainly on Seavey since in 25 minutes we managed to count over 25 derelict traps and just as many buoys.  We collected at least 5 plastic bottles, ropes and just odds and ends made of plastic.  While we hurriedly assessed the debris situation, we had to walk carefully and nimbly around the tern colony.  Along with the trash we encountered baby terns and eggs.  
Baby Terns!

...and eggs
It was sad- actually.  These two islands are sanctuaries for terns and while there are conservation efforts going on for the terns- it seems very little conservation is being done for the islands.  Piles of lobster traps sit on both islands- on White- the pile of traps is GIANT- with approximately 30 traps mixed in with buoys, wood, rubber parts, bottles, cans, cables and ropes.  We have our work cut out for us in the upcoming follow-up clean-up.  Coordinating with local fishermen, volunteers, whale watch boats,tern hatching schedules and NH fish & game is quite a juggling act but totally worth it if at the end of the day these traps and other debris can be removed from the islands.  The terns deserve a cleaner sanctuary and these beautiful, rocky islands should be kept debris free.  They should sparkle.

Thanks to the Fishing for Energy Partnership and NOAA for providing funding for our cleanups at the Isles of Shoals this summer!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jenness Beach Cleanup, August 1

We got to Jenness Beach for our monthly cleanup tonight and the beach was in horrible shape - I don't think I have ever seen so many piles of trash on the beach. Perhaps the quick rainstorm this afternoon had people scrambling for their cars, leaving their trash behind.  Here are the totals of what 25 volunteers (15 adults, 10 kids) picked up in about an hour:

1 Buoy
16 Pieces of Fishing Line
3 Pieces of Rope >1m
1 Condom
3 Beverage Cans
8 Balloons
27 Straws
3 Piles of Dog Waste
24 Plastic Bags
13 Plastic Bottles
49 Bottle Caps
962 Cigarette Butts
1 Strap
2 Disks from the Hooksett Wastewater Treatment Plant spill on 3/6/11

This amounted to 34 pounds of litter.  Here's the beach, before and after:

Thanks to everyone who helped out tonight! Our next cleanup at Jenness is Wednesday, August 29 at 6:30 PM. We also have cleanups on Saturday, August 18 at 9 AM at North Hampton State Beach and North Beach. The beaches need extra help at this busy time of year - hope to see you there!