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SCCF invites community to clean up the coastal areas of Sanibel and Captiva

By Staff | Sep 10, 2009

Plastic bags and fishing line.

In and of themselves they don’t pose direct danger.

But drop them on the beach and let them float about the coast and inevitably drift into the water and then it becomes a hazard and threat to the environment and wildlife.

But according to environment and wildlife officials it doesn’t have to be like this. If everybody got together on a global level and pitched in to clean up the coasts less marine life would be in danger of dying from toxins emitted from cigarette butts or choke on plastic bags or get tangled or strangled on fishing line, said Dee Serage-Century, a habitat educator with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

As a way to help clean the area coasts as well join in the Ocean Conservancy’s global cleanup, SCCF is hosting their own cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 19.

SCCF is inviting the community to participate in an international volunteer effort to remove trash and debris from coastlines and waterways. Last year 400,000 volunteers worldwide removed 6.8 million pounds of coastal trash that can hurt local communities, injure and kill marine wildlife, and choke the ocean environment, according to an SCCF report. SCCF partners in the Ocean Conservancy’s 24th Annual Coastal Cleanup. Keep Lee County Beautiful, Captiva Kayak, and the City of Sanibel join in the effort.

“It’s just such a simple thing that we can do that helps in such a big way,” Serage-Century said. “The symbolism is just so important.”

SCCF has been participating in the community effort for more than two decades. Several hundred volunteers attended last year. Half of those helping clean up were kids.

Drawing families to participate is an important part of the project.

David Lowden and his wife Kelly and children Emery, Skyler and David have been participating in the event for nearly a decade. Last year they worked on the Causeway, this year they will be cleaning the coast near Lighthouse Beach.

“It’s majorly important.” David Lowden said. “Plastic can be mistaken for food.”

David and Kelly Lowden encourage their children to help protect wildlife and keep the environment clean.

“It’s nice because you can educate the kids at a young age,” David Lowden said.

And the Lowdens’ don’t make the cleanup seem like drudgery and work. Their children get to invite their friends to participate with them.

“Kids love it,” David Lowden said. “They think it’s a big party.”

Their 10-year-old twins Emery and Skyler look forward to being a part of the cleanup.

“I like to help the environment,” Emery said. “We usually do it with friends.”

Skyler is not one of those messy kids – she likes things neat and clean.

“I don’t like it when there’s a lot of trash in the oceans,” she said.

And eight-year-old DB said he is focused on saving the animals.

The Lowden children make the cleanup as much fun as possible. They create contests of who can find the most trash with their friends and they try to seem which one can claim the weirdest garbage.

“Sometimes we find dirty diapers and stuff,” DB said.

Dianne Sherman, director of the International Coastal Cleanup for the Ocean Conservancy, said Southwest Florida tends to have a good showing at the coastal cleanups.

“This is a clear way that people on a local level can have a clear impact,” Sherman said.

Participants are welcome to come to the SCCF event at 3333 San-Cap Road between 9 to noon on Saturday, Sept. 19 to check in and pick up their Coastal Cleanup Data card and trash bags. People can also sign in on Captiva at Captiva Kayak, 11401 Andy Rosse Lane. Water and snacks will be provided at both sites as well as a dumpster to deposit trash.

Last year volunteers picked up 3,216,991 cigarettes and plastic filters topping the worldwide marine litter list. Plastic bags came in second with 1,377,141 collected.

“Trash in the ocean is one of the most widespread problems threatening our waterways today and it is all preventable,” Serage-Century said.

Anyone with questions or those looking to pick up data cards ahead of time, call Dee at SCCF at 472-2329.