Beaches cleanup campaigns under way

As March quickly approaches, the Barrier Island Center located at 8385 South Highway A1A in Melbourne Beach prepares for two of its three annual beach cleanups, Trash Bash and Cleanup the World Campaign.

“The biggest obstacle in keeping our beaches clean is the continued overuse of disposable plastics that could be recycled,” said Sanctuary Steward Heidi Grooms said via email. “In addition, a lack of overall community effort to address the issue would help.”

The BIC hosts a beach cleanup on the third Saturday of each month, and averages about five to 10 participants each time.

“Volunteers are a huge benefit to the program as they create partnerships with the community and other local organizations,” Grooms said. “They also allow the [Environmentally Endangered Lands] program to run more effectively and efficiently by allowing the staff and volunteers to accomplish much more in shorter periods of time than with staff alone.”

Volunteers of all ages are welcomed to become directly involved in the EELs program at any of the three education centers. Anyone volunteer under the age of 15 requires an adult 18 years or older and a background check during their volunteer hours.

“[Students] of all ages will learn the importance of responsible stewardship and bio-diversity and subsequently will educate and encourage others to do the same,” Grooms said. “Volunteers need to possess a passion or interest in natural areas and there continued protection and preservation. Otherwise, we train you do the rest.”

In 2011, the EEL program had 168 volunteers contributing more than 10,837 hours. Students can become involved by participating in any of the monthly activities, seminars or events. The events are posted on the EELs website, Facebook pages and emails.

“EELs has a significant impact on the community by allowing the public to become directly involved in local land conservation efforts,” Grooms said.

To volunteer, students must complete an application, which can be picked up at any education center, and participate in a short interview with an EEL staff member. This interview allows EEL staff to determine which opportunities are best suited for the volunteer and his schedule. Next, a website and password will be sent via e-mail to the volunteer so that they may sign up for available shifts in their areas of interest.

“Volunteering can consist of docents, study trip guides, gift shop associates, sanctuary preservation, beach cleanups, children’s programs, guided hikes, special events, community outreach and turtle walk scouting,” Grooms said. “All of these options in some form or fashion educate and encourage stewardship.”

Most of the waste on the beaches comes from people who pollute rather than dispose of items properly such as recycling. These items include plastic bottles and caps, cigarette butts and marine debris such as fishing line, nets and Styrofoam. These plastics cannot be digested and kill thousands of marine animals and birds each year.

The Ocean Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean. Ocean Conservancy is looking for interns on a rolling basis in our offices across the country.

Human Resources Director Donna Hill said internships are advertised on the website for various sites across the country. Few opportunities are offered for students under the age of 18, but college-level students looking to pursue a career related to ocean conservation can submit their résumé.

The great Pacific Garbage Patch is comprised of mostly plastic which does not biodegrade, 80 percent comes from land and 20 percent comes from ships. Plastic eventually breaks into smaller pieces that are eventually consumed by fish and birds. This toxicity is then passed through the food chain and ultimately to humans. There are no current efforts to clean it up because it is more like a galaxy of debris rather than an island. Five of these patches exist, one in each ocean, and they are held together by the vortex of water.

From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico to the halls of Congress, Ocean Conservancy is leading the search for solutions to protect our water planet. Founded in 1972, Ocean Conservancy has emerged as a trusted voice in its advocacy for the ocean that is essential to all life.

For more information about the EELs Program or the Ocean Conservancy visit the websites http://www.brevardcounty.us/EELProgram/ and http://www.oceanconservancy.org/.

By Taylor Eenhuis