Saturday, April 11, 2015

Plastic, Plastic and More Plastic in Provincetown

Race Point Beach on a gray, foggy day
Microplastics, bottle caps and straws by the hundreds... this is what we encountered when we arrived at Race Point Beach in Provincetown, MA for our annual cleanup during the annual New England Whale Watch Naturalist Workshop. The workshop, hosted by Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown, Center for Coastal Studies and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is an opportunity for whale watch naturalists from around New England to get together to share ideas and learn the latest updates in whale research and conservation. And sometimes, we're lucky enough to even be able to see whales from the beach! But this day it was a bit too foggy.

Cleanup volunteers on a foggy beach
For the last several years, we've worked with the Jesse Mechling, Marine Education Director at the Center for Coastal Studies, to organize a beach cleanup at one of Provincetown's long, beautiful, but sadly trash-ridden beaches. Not only is the cleanup a great team-building and networking opportunity, but it allows us all to make a real difference in the health of local marine life populations by removing marine debris before it washes into the ocean, where it can impact whales and other marine animals through entanglement or ingestion. We also collect data on our findings, and can compare them from year to year.
Sand-covered parking lot at Race Point Beach in Provincetown, MA
This year, first of all, we arrived to find that half the Race Point Beach parking lot was covered with sand due to winter storms. That gave us a good idea of what to expect on the beach, as we headed down to the shore and found lots of storm-tossed debris, especially in the wrack line (the line of seaweed and debris left behind as the tide recedes).

We found a lot more small plastics than we expected. And as an unfortunate example of the persistence of litter, we found 10 biofilm chips from the spill that occurred from the Hooksett, NH wastewater treatment plant on March 6, 2011 (read more about that here).

Bottle cap on the beach
Thanks to the 19 volunteers that helped with this cleanup and removed 40 lbs of debris from the beach in less than an hour! Here are the totals for what we picked up:
362 Plastic pieces
210 Bottle caps
101 Straws
44 Rope pieces
20 Cigarette butts
14 Balloons
13 Food wrappers
11 Plastic bags
11 Foam pieces
10 Hooksett disks (biofilm chips)
8 Plastic beverage bottles
7 Tampon applicators
6 Strapping bands
5 Nets/bait bags
3 Pieces of fishing line
2 Six-pack rings
1 Glove
1 Condom
1 Syringe
1 Glass bottle
Additional items included: Cigarette packaging, zip ties, an oil drum lid, glow sticks, sunglasses, a spoon, 2 cups, 2 (unmatched) boots, a shotgun shell, a razor and a toothbrush.

Us "whaleheads" are always happy when we can be outside
Thanks to everyone who helped!

Want to participate in a cleanup? Learn about Blue Ocean Society's upcoming cleanups here.

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