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Coastal Cleanup on Tap for Saturday


The Ocean Conservancy celebrates the 30th anniversary of its annual Coast Cleanup on Saturday. Floridians and people around the world will head to the beaches and other bodies of water to help offset the damage caused by humans. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports.

Last year, more than 300 volunteers combed area beaches and waterways in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.  Five cleanup sites are designated this year: Park East and West on Santa Rosa Island; Gulf Islands National Seashore, Perdido Key State Park, and Project Greenshores in downtown Pensacola.

Robert Turpin, Escambia County’s Marine Resources Chief, says “Not only picking up the marine debris, but categorizing it and identifying it so hopefully, we can get a better handle on where the debris comes from and what are the solutions.”

“The number one, by far, by individual item are cigarette butts,” Turpin said. “We’ve all seen people who have simply thrown something on to the ground. They must not consider it litter, but it is in fact litter. And the cigarette butt leads the ‘Dirty Dozen.’”

While cigarette butts are an eyesore and a nuisance, other types of garbage are downright dangerous to marine wildlife and shore birds. Plastic, for instance, can be mistaken for jellyfish by turtles and other animals that eat them. The plastic lodges in the animals’ digestive tracts, resulting in stunted growth or even death.

Besides collecting the debris, another vital part of the Coastal Cleanup is measuring how much and what type. Turpin says in some ways, the data is actually more important than the debris that’s cleaned up on that one day. Another challenge is getting out information to people on how they can help keep waterways clean year-round.

If you’re planning on coming out and taking part in the cleanup, Turpin says come prepared for the weather, and for what you’ll be handling.

“Sunscreen, a hat, some kind of rain jacket, shoes that are rugged,” said Turpin. “Gloves are another real important thing to protect yourself. If it’s something that you’re unsure of its safety, then we just ask you to leave it there, get its location, and then contact someone and we’ll try to handle it.”

The local forecast calls for sunny skies on Saturday. But if you’re on the beach and see lightning or hear thunder, get off the beach and go to a safe area. For more information about the International Coastal Cleanup, visit myescambia.com or log onto OceanConservancy.org.