The Natural Resources Department had a Beach Clean-Up at Kellogg Beach August 9th with the help of the Summer Youth and Smith River Rancheria Staff. Approximately 150-175 pounds of debris from the beach was removed. Uncontrolled disposal of solid and hazardous waste poses a serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of Tribal members and non-members visiting the beach. These hazardous effects of marine debris also cause harm to our wildlife.
Marine debris is litter or trash that is found under-water and on beaches. Any trash that is not properly discarded has the potential to become marine debris. Trash not only ends up in the ocean from illegal disposal of shipboard waste but also from land-based sources. Litter on the street is washed down storm drains when it rains. This trash can work its way into rivers and eventually empty into bays and oceans. Plastic trash does not sink or decompose at sea, thus increasing its visibility in oceans and on beaches. It is now virtually impossible to cross an ocean or go to a beach anywhere in the world without finding marine debris.
Some plastic products can cause harm to wildlife and vessels alike. Birds, fish and mammals often mistake plastic for food. Some birds even feed it to their young. With plastic filling their stomachs, animals have a false feeling of being full, and may die of starvation. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods. Even gray whales have been found dead with plastic bags and sheeting in their stomachs. Dis-carded fishing nets made of strong plastic materials continue to trap marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, and fish. Beachgoers can cut them-selves on glass and metal left on the beach. Marine debris also endangers the safety and livelihood of fishermen and recreational boaters. Nets and fishing line can obstruct propellers and plastic sheeting and bags can block cooling intakes. Such damage is hazardous and costly in terms of repair and lost fishing time.
The debris that we collect from our beaches is a symptom of a much larger water pollution problem that is caused by everyday people doing everyday things. Rain scours oil from parking lots, fertilizer from lawns, pet droppings from sidewalks and other contaminants from “nonpoint” sources and transports this toxic stew down storm drains and over land into the ocean. These toxins are poisoning marine life and our water sources. We can all be part of the solution by recycling used motor oil and repairing car leaks, picking up after our pets and switching to non-toxic products and improve other everyday practices to help keep our waterways clear and clean.
For more information go to http://marinedebris.noaa.gov.
Submitted by Tessa LaFazio, EPA Program Technician