As the days have grown shorter, and the mornings crispy, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies has set out to tackle the trash of the beach. The month of September kicked off our 30th annual CoastWalk beach clean-up season around Kachemak Bay. Every September and October the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies gather volunteers, teachers, students, organizations, and businesses to clean Kachemak Bay beaches. For the past 29 years these dedicated volunteers have picked up everything off the beach from a discarded toothbrush to half a fiberglass kayak. Over the past 29 years, volunteers have collected thousands of pieces of debris, and in the process saved many of our seabirds, marine mammals, and fish from the devastating effects of marine debris.
The importance of marine debris clean-up has been advocated in recent years by environmental activism, many educational groups, and non-profit organizations. When non-biodegradable items such as plastic, foam, metal and glass fall into the ocean environment, the habitats and food sources of marine organisms are disrupted. Animals can be entangled and/or injured by larger debris items, while many animals mistake smaller debris items for food. Microscopic pieces of debris are filling up the ocean, outnumbering plankton and affecting normal photosynthetic activity. By cleaning up the bay and promoting a widespread attitude of conservation and sustainability among the community, we can work together to protect our marine neighbors and allow the oceans to flourish.
On Saturday, September 6th, a group of energetic volunteers joined us with Bay Excursions Water Taxi to clean up McDonald's spit. The blue waters and beautiful skies, welcomed us to the beach. After talking to a few spit residents, we learned that some of them regularly pick up trash along the shore. We were able to concentrate on picking up the small polyurethane foam pieces, micro plastic pieces, and bits of rope. These smaller pieces of debris are particularly important to clean up because they resemble fish eggs, and are small enough for most seabirds, marine mammals, and fish to ingest. We collected roughly fifty pounds of debris from the sandy shoreline, with the help of a friendly local dog who followed and entertained us around throughout the day. We are happy to say this beach is clean, thanks to our great volunteers!
After three weeks of rain and small craft advisories, the morning of September 13th dawned sunny with the promise of clear skies throughout the day. Red Mountain Marine Water Taxi donated a ride for us to conduct a cleanup around Aurora Lagoon. Our group of volunteers and staff were able to fill the boat will large polyurethane blocks and bags of miscellaneous debris including clay pigeons. Small pieces of polyurethane foam were the most common trash item found. We have noticed a trend of pieces like this being the most common item on most beach walks. Volunteers were rewarded with a visit from a harbor seal, a sea otter, and a flock of migrating seabirds.