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SCCF, Captiva Kayak host 25th annual International Coastal Cleanup

By Staff | Sep 16, 2010

Greg LeBlanc and Barb Renneke, owners of Captiva Kayak, have sponsored the Coastal Cleanup for more than a decade. This year, they will host volunteers on Captiva, in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. This is the SCCF’s 25th year participating in this international event.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Captiva Kayak will act as host locations for the islands’ 25 participatory year in the International Coastal Cleanup.

This annual event, organized locally by Keep Lee County Beautiful and nationally by the Ocean Conservancy, is a global event that unites thousands of volunteers every year under the common cause of raising awareness about litter prevention and clearing coastlines all across the world of dangerous marine debris.

The Ocean Conservancy defines marine debris as “any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.” This includes cigarette butts and filters, plastic and paper bags, bottles and cans, food wrappers, bait containers, fishing line, diapers, tires, toys, clothing, cups, caps, straws, chemical drums and even shotgun shells.

Marine debris poses a threat to all kinds of wildlife — plastic bags are mistaken for jellyfish and eaten by sea turtles and lost or discarded fishing line is often eaten by birds, sometimes entangling and killing marine life.

“We spend a lot of time protecting beach habitats for wildlife, like snowy plovers and sea turtles,” said Dee Serage-Century of the SCCF, “So the Coastal Cleanup fits right into our mission. Pollution on the beach can end up in the water and that can affect a lot of things. It’s also a nice way for everyone to get involved with protecting beach habitats.”

From left, Coastal Cleanup volunteers Rae McClow, Greg and Diane Cortese, Birgie Vertesch and Ann Potter pose together for a photo during the 2008 cleanup.

As they clean, volunteers record data — such as the amount and types of debris collected — which is then sent to the Ocean Conservancy and added to the global total.

“The top ones are always cigarette butts, plastics and monofilament fishing line — any of the plastics are definitely harmful to sea turtles and birds and we want to make sure we get all of those off the beach,” Serage-Century said.

According to Keep Lee County Beautiful (www.klcb.org), more than 950 Lee County volunteers — including divers — turned out in 2008 to clean beaches and gathered approximately 4,500 pounds of trash and monofilament fishing line from the area’s coastline and waterways.

During the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, almost 500,000 volunteers picked up 7.4 million pounds of marine debris (10,239,538 individual pieces of trash) at more than 6,000 sites in 108 countries and 45 U.S. states.

What follows is the top five list of the world’s most abundant marine debris in 2009:

Students from the Canterbury School in Fort Myers posed for a photograph at last year’s cleanup. This year, students will return to clean up Lighthouse Beach and enjoy a lunch provided by Bailey’s General Store.

• Cigarette butts/filters: 2,189,252

• Plastic bags: 1,126,774

• Food wrappers/containers: 943,233

• Caps/lids: 912,246

• Plastic beverage bottles: 883,737

Marine debris such as plastic bags, cigarette butts and twist ties pose a serious threat to coastal wildlife.

Of those statistics, the state of Florida accounted for 205,393 cigarette butts, 29,655 plastic bags, 44,119 food wrappers, 64,955 caps and lids and 29,442 plastic bottles.

For a complete break down of the roughly 10.2 million pieces of trash collected during the 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, go to the “Coastal Cleanup” section of www.oceanconservancy.org and click on “Marine Debris Report.”

Greg LeBlanc and Barb Renneke, owners of Captiva Kayak, have been proud supporters of the SCCF for 15 years and sponsors of the Coastal Cleanup for 10.

“We encourage members of the community to participate,” LeBlanc said. “We’re fortunate that we don’t have a big litter problem on these islands — but when we come across trash, we pick it up. If it wasn’t for people protecting and cleaning up these lands, no one would want to come here.”

LeBlanc and Renneke welcome anyone who wants to participate to meet at Captiva Kayak, 11401 Andy Rosse Lane at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Participants will receive their equipment and data cards and will be assigned a particular section of beach.

Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags floating in the water for jellyfish. Plastic bags are one of the most abundant sources of marine debris.

Once they’ve cleaned their section, participants can return their trash bags to LeBlanc and Renneke and head over to the SCCF to turn in their data cards and enjoy some well-deserved refreshments.

“People can also show up at the Nature Center any time between 9 a.m. and noon,” Serage-Century said. “They can call ahead if they have a special place in mind and then come in and pick up their supplies or, if they’re not sure where to go, I can give them a location.”

The SCCF Nature Center is located at 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road.