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SCCF Wants You: Volunteers needed for coastal cleanup

By Staff | Sep 1, 2011

Photo by CAROL ORR HARTMAN Sanibel family Kate and Stuart Sergeant, their children Charlie, Jack and Henry, as well as Dee Serage-Century with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, encourage islanders to volunteer for the 26th Annual International Coastal Cleanup on the island’s beaches Sept. 17.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Captiva Kayak will once again act as host locations for the islands’ 26th Annual International Coastal Cleanup.

This event, organized locally by Keep Lee County Beautiful and nationally by 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.

“I took my daily walk and found fishing line in a tree branch and an old crab pot that were not there the day before,” said Dee Serage-Century, SCCF’s Living with Wildlife Educator. “An unsuspecting bird or diamond back terrapin could have been harmed.”

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

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.” That 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.

Photos by Jeff Lysiak Searching Gulfside City Park’s beachfront for litter and waste during last year’s International Coastal Cleanup are Lexington Middle School students, from left, Brandon Olivo, 11, Yesenia Ramirez, 13, and Nicole Champa, 14, along with Life Skills instructor Kim Smith.

“We walk along the beach every morning,” stated Kate Sergeant, who recently moved to Sanibel with her family. “We always pick up trash, such as plastic water bottles and even balloons.”

The Sergeant family will be participating for the first time in the International Coastal Cleanup Sept. 17 because “clean oceans and beaches are important to us,” Kate said. The family recycles and does not use those plastic water bottles or plastic bags from the grocery store as their ways of protecting the environment.

During this international effort, hundreds of thousands of people will descend on beaches, bays, and rivers all over the world to remove trash and debris on land and under the water. Volunteers of all ages from every continent will form the largest one-day volunteer event on behalf of clean oceans and waterways.

What makes the International Coastal Cleanup unique is its data collection component. As volunteers clean, data, such as the amounts and types of debris collected, is recorded. It is then sent to the Ocean Conservancy, which allows them to compile, analyze and track this data year-by-year and make discoveries about the behaviors that cause debris.

The final information is used to educate the public, business, industry and government officials about the problem. Understanding the problem is the key to finding long-lasting solutions.

Volunteers hauled bag after bag of refuse into the dumpster on Island B during the 2010 International Coastal Cleanup. More than 850 Lee County volunteers, including divers, turned out for last year’s event and gathered approximately 4,500 pounds of trash and monofilament fishing line from the area’s coastline and waterways.

“Every day new human debris is added to our beach and bay shorelines,” said Serage-Century. “SCCF needs coastal cleanup volunteers to cover every walkable shoreline.”

The Coastal Cleanup is a way to get involved locally with an international effort, in which thousands of individuals are working together to clean up their shores and have some fun, too.

According to Keep Lee County Beautiful (www.klcb.org), more than 850 Lee County volunteers, including divers, turned out in 2010 to clean beaches and gathered approximately 4,500 pounds of trash and monofilament fishing line from the area’s coastline and waterways.

“It’s our day to give back and teach our kids to give back,” said Serage-Century.

If you would like to do your part in keeping our beaches clean, report at 9 a.m. Sept. 17 to the SCCF Nature Center, 3333 San-Cap Rd., or to Captiva Kayak, 11401 Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva. Bring your bag back to SCCF at noon and join other volunteers for hot dogs, provided by Bailey’s General Store, on the porch.

For more information on this event, you can call Serage-Century at 472-2329.

“See you Sept. 17,” Serage-Century said in hopes there will be a great turn out on the islands.