Marine Debris Threatens Marine Animals
Volunteers Get Together to Clean Up Bay Islands Beaches

June 21st, 2013
by Nicholas Bach

We all want to enjoy clean beaches. However every beach, no matter how remote, will always have trash littering it. This debris is not only unsightly and potentially dangerous for us, it is also deadly for marine animals.

Volunteers clean up the beach on Utila in late June. (photo courtesy BICCU)

Volunteers clean up the beach on Utila in late June. (photo courtesy BICCU)

Data from 10 years of beach clean-ups indicate 80 percent the debris picked up comes from land-based sources. Marine debris is estimated to affect 270 species worldwide, including 85 percent of sea turtles, 45 percent of  sea bird and 45 percent of marine mammals. Marine animals ingest plastic bags, cigarette butts, and bottle caps, resulting in malnutrition or even starvation. They can also suffocate when plastic bags or six-pack holders block passageways. Animals also become entangled in fishing line, strapping bands and six-pack holders, making it difficult for them to eat, breathe or swim, with possibly fatal results.

Marine debris is a symptom of a much larger water pollution problem caused by our lifestyle. Recognizing your role as part of the problem is the first step toward finding a solution. There are some basic lifestyle changes you can make, such as purchasing products that have little or no packaging or are made from recycled materials, reusing shopping bags and using containers, such as yogurt pots or meat packs, to store leftovers. You can also reuse your beverage containers at coffee shops, bars and smoothie bars rather than getting styrofoam or plastic cups. Ensure that your trash is properly disposed of and that organic matter is used for compost. Recycle as much as possible.

Students in Roatan's West End with garbage they collected.

Students in Roatan's West End with garbage they collected. (photo courtesy Dawn Hyde)

By spreading the word and making a conscientious effort to reduce your personal waste, you can help make our beaches a bit safer for us and the animals.

Vail Resorts Inc., sponsored Tim Lipman to work with the Bay Islands Conservation Association on a badly needed beach clean-up on Utila in June. Forty-five volunteers, mostly tourists and expats, collected 85 large trash bags of garbage.

Nearly 3,000 volunteers from 40 communities took part in a Bay Islands-wide cleanup June 28 and 30, filling about 10,000 trash bags with debris — 189 truckloads.

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