Monday, December 6, 2021

Beach News from Tip to Tip

Photos by Jean Hall
| Brittany Piersma, FWC Shorebird Steward, is removing sandspurs from Sand Dollar Island. They are prickly and painful to the newborn chicks.


Marco’s Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, along with co-sponsor, Marco Island Board Association of Area Realtors (MIAAR) gathered at South Beach for a monthly two-hour beach cleanup. Students from Marco Island Academy Key Club also participated along with the regular group of volunteers from Marco. 

Photos by Jean Hall
| Ask me about the Birds – weekend stewards on Sand Dollar Island. [L – R] Brittany Piersma (FWC), Robin Serne (Anchor Steward, Audubon Florida), Pam Fawcett (Shorebird Volunteer), and Rochelle Streker (Biologist for Audubon Florida).

A big thank you to the over 40 volunteers who fanned out from South Beach to JW Marriott and picked up at least 80 pounds of trash in a two-hour period. According to beach volunteer Donna Kaczka, masks have replaced plastic straws as the most picked up trash on the beach.

Beach volunteers have seen less and less single use plastic straws – a good sign that Marco’s ban on single use plastic straws is working. In 2016, the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee (BACR) revived the issue and worked hard to get the ban on plastic straws. On March 5, 2018, City Council unanimously voted to “prohibit the use of plastic straws by those businesses located directly adjacent to the City beaches.”

JW Marriott was the first to introduce a paper straw made by Aardvark Straws; customized with green sea turtles they decompose in just 45-90 days. Carried away by the wind, plastic straws litter our beaches, oceans, and waterways. Plastic straws are also among the top five items collected during beach cleanups. 

According to Renee Wilson, Communications Associate for Audubon, Florida, “Plastic debris, whether bottle caps, soda containers, food wrappers, or plastic grocery bags, kills marine animals and the birds that feed. We can all help protect them by limiting plastic product consumption and by securing trash and packing it up when visiting the beach by boat or by car.”

So, how bad is plastic to seabirds?

In 1960, 5% of seabirds contained plastic.

In 1986, 85% of seabirds contained plastic.

In 2019, 95% of seabirds contain plastic.

In 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Photos by Jean Hall

The majority of plastic water bottles and glass containers were picked up by the dune vegetation; discarded charcoal briquets by the sea oats; tents, chairs and large plastic floats also were picked up along the dunes. Earlier in the month, Community Service Officers had to dismantle an abandoned tent on the beach. Biologist Brittany Piersma, FWC shorebird steward, also collected her share of trash, abandoned tents and chairs from Sand Dollar Island.

During the beach cleanup, I did a survey of the trash containers used by various beach condos. Open trash containers attract nuisance wildlife to the beach; crows pick food from open containers during the day and trash attracts the presence of raccoons and rats at night. With Sea turtle season, nuisance wildlife poses a threat to sea turtle hatchlings. Raccoons have been known to dig up sea turtle nests for the eggs. Several years ago, Marco’s beach had a problem with nuisance wildlife and FWC recommended the use of heavy-duty trash containers with heavy hinged tops.

The finding was alarming – the majority of the trash cans had open tops. Some tops or lids were very flimsy and can easily be opened by wildlife both day and night. These are located inside the property line of the condos and intended for use only for the residents. The South Beach trash and recycle containers are heavy duty and wildlife proof, while the City of Marco Island’s eight trash containers were wildlife proof, the two recycle containers were open top. 

News from Sand Dollar Island – The Critical Wildlife Area of Big Marco Pass (Sand Dollar Island) is posted for the summer nesting season and certain areas are closed to prepare for the arrival of the Least Terns and Black Skimmers. Already, Least Terns are hovering above, and the chick shelters are in place. 

Ask me about the birds: It was a busy weekend at the tip of Sand Dollar Island as Biologist Brittany Piersma, FWC Shorebird Steward, Robin Serne, Anchor Steward for Audubon Florida, Rochelle Streker, Southwest Florida Shorebird Project Manager and Pam Fawcett, Shorebird Steward volunteer got down to the business of public education about the importance of the nesting birds.



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