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Saving Your Beaches, Ocean Conservation & BBQ Grills

Coastline with sandy beach

Most of us love the ocean. When it gets warm, we pile into our cars pack our belongings and take to the sand. Some dream of living at the beach, spend a lot of money vacationing to places like the Caribbean, and enjoy outdoor activities like boating, surfing, or barbequing.

All of these activities have a profound effect on our oceans, conservation, and the well-being of the ecosystem. These natural habitats are places for us to spend time outdoors with family and friends, but it's also a place we share with wildlife.

For centuries the human population has been a threat to our beaches. Particularly mass industrialization, intense coastal development, and economic growth have had a profound effect on beach ecosystems. But other common stressors include recreational seashore activity, mechanical beach cleaning, pollution, and overfishing.

Beach Cleaning

Natural beach plants

With the on flow of people seeking to walk sandy shores, comes the municipal desire to attract tourists and keep the beaches clean. For this reason, many cities use heavy mechanical tools to wipe beaches clean. Sand is often raked or sieved and while this removes unwanted material it also destroys natural habitats where sea turtles, birds, and other wildlife nest.

Furthermore, it removes natural flora and fauna that helps prevent erosion and acts as a food source for a variety of insects, birds, and other species. Heavy grooming isn't the answer to keeping beaches clean. It affects the ecosystem and cause beach erosion that misplaces plant and animal species.

The solution: Join a cleanup crew and spend some time walking the shores and cleaning up litter one piece at a time. Better yet, if you're a beach dweller, enjoy sand and surf, BBQ grills and pits, and eating by the seashore, clean up after yourself. Protect our beaches and the environment by keeping your area unpolluted. Most beaches provide bins for trash, so there's no reason for litter to fill the beaches and enter the ocean.

Balancing Pollution

Seal on rock

As an industrialized country, we cause pollution. Most solid waste that winds up across the shoreline is brought ashore by waves and currents. Plastic has been a persistent problem and it dominates most visible litter on sandy beaches. Most often this trash has been dumped into the water by recreational and commercial boaters.

Some of the major concerns with plastic consist of the possible ingestion of and entanglement by dolphins, seals, seabirds, and turtles. This is a human problem, too, as economic resources are used to clean up after this kind of pollution. Not to mention the illegal dumping of medical waste that presents specific health risks to humans.

Sewage is another problem. Surf-zone waters, sands, and marine wildlife are all sensitive and strongly affected by pathogens like bacteria and fungi. This could be caused by human waste in the water or dog waste on the sand. Water waste management practices are essential to preventing contamination. Cleaning up after pets is another way to prevent pathogenic bacteria from entering the water.

Oil spills are one of the worst forms of pollution we're contending with. This affects all levels of beach and ocean well-being. The impact might be acute and temporary, but in more severe cases it can be a chronic problem. Some oil spills are large and create a lot of exposure like Exxon and BP, others are small infractions committed by commercial shipping companies and often go undetected.

The solution: The exemplary thing to do is be conscious and respectful of the land and ocean surrounding it. If you have the mind to intentionally dump oil in the water, then you care little for the beach and its ecosystem. However, if you are proactive and are passionate about the ocean and wildlife, participate locally and politically by supporting individuals who are similarly driven.


Commercial fisherman with net

How many times have you walked the peer only to see dozens of fisher man tossing their line out and fishing off the shore? How about coastal fisheries, targeting areas not far from the shoreline? Though the disturbance to the ecosystem is spatial and somewhat limited, in chronic cases it can have a profound effect on the ecosystem. First, overfishing reduces the number of spawn, resulting in a decreasing age and size of maturity. Second, it disturbs and affects the flora, sand and shoreline areas by causing erosion.

Fishing lines and nets harm wildlife and land on the beaches to pollute the shores. The damage fisheries and commercial fishing liners are doing to the ecosystem can have lasting effects. Through carelessness it's getting harder and harder to protect the environment and keep the ocean free of the debris.

The solution: Commercial and recreational fishing is necessary and fun; however, bear in mind proper practices. The Coastal Conservation Association and the World Wildlife Fund are working to regulate environmentally destructive fishing practices often used by the commercial fishing industry.

Moreover, the MSC or Marine Stewardship Council monitors fisheries to rate and ensure sustainable fishing, and the Department of Fish and Game have fishing limitations in place to ensure fishers are in compliance with the law. To do your part, Animal Planet recommends these 5 sustainable fishing practices:

1. When you keep your catch, use every part of it. Make compost out of the parts that aren't used. Over the course of several months you can convert it to rich humus for your plants.

2. Pack out everything you pack in. The California Coastal Commission warns that debris in the water can wrap around boat propellers and cause engine damage, and that cigarette butts and plastic bags look like food to animals but actually cause suffocation and starvation. So be careful about packing debris and take it home with you for recycling and composting.

3. Practice catch and release, unless you hook an invasive species. Learn expert catch and release techniques and use the appropriate tackle to help preserve the ecosystem. Increase your knowledge of invasive species. These fish are the non-natives that infiltrate some waterways. Fish and game officials ask that you inform the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries, which is working with federal wildlife officials to track and prevent the invasive species' spread.

4. Use lead free tackle. Lead is toxic to most living things. Fish exposed to lead causes muscular and neurological degeneration and destruction, stunted growth, reproduction problems, and paralysis. It's also deadly to loon and eagles, so order lead-free fishing gear instead.

5. Practice carbon conscious fishing. Watch carbon emissions. Replace your propeller with a new stainless steel one, install an electric fuel meter, keep up with boat maintenance, and go easy on the throttle.

There are ways you can help. The Network for Good offers a variety of resources and ways in which you can get involved to help balance the ecosystem and increase awareness. On their site there are several places to volunteer and make a difference.

Moreover, CSI Sustainable Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands offer the following suggestions:

  • Adopt a beach
  • Undertake a beach clean up
  • Take part in an international beach clean up
  • Get involved in a re-vegetation project
  • Involve children and teach conservation practices
  • Dispose of litter properly
  • Avoid walking on coastal vegetation
  • Being aware

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