Monday, July 5, 2010

Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project Trashy Talking Turtlers

Week 3: June 14 - June 20, 2010

Greeting Trashy Talking Turtlers,

You have been very busy this week looking for turtle tracks, picking up trash, filling in holes, reporting tents found on the beach, kindly informing dog owners that there is a $250 fine for having a dog on the beach and e-mailing me with your entertaining reports. I would not be honest if I said I do not enjoy the reports. Many of you are so humorous and I am amazed at the things you are finding on the beach and what you are willing to pick up.

Week 3:
We picked up trash in 28 of the 42 zones (66.7 percent)
Zone 0 = 5.5 bags
Zone 1 = 14.5 bags
Zone 2 = 5 bags
Zone 3 = 13.5 bags
Zone 4 = 5 bags
Zone 5 = 7 bags
Total for Week 3 = 50.5 bags

Grand Total since June 1 = 124.5 bags! (and as always this does not include all of the beach towels, chairs and other random items that are too large for the bags.)

Turtle Tracks vs. Human Tracks
Where are those turtle tracks? I truly believe they are going to show up tonight, but I believe that every night. I often pray for WB to get a nesting sea turtle because I know we are all working so hard to protect the turtles and educate others about their plight. I also meditate and visualize that the turtles will come to WB. Some of you have shared that you do the same types of things. So, maybe if we all join together in one thought and send out positive energy every night (maybe at 9 p.m.), then the vibrations of our positive energy will surely travel across the sea and the mother sea turtles will come. It may not help, but it won't hurt, right?

Even though we have not been able to celebrate turtle tracks, we all too often see the tracks that are left behind by humans in the form of litter, holes, canopies and unattended dog poop. Much of the litter is accidental, but it is litter, nonetheless, and ends up in the vortexes of our oceans where sea life ingests it, gets tangled in it and is sometimes killed by it. This is but one reason why the work we do in cleaning the beach is so important. I thank you for your efforts in picking up litter as it is still an act of protecting sea turtles even if it is not in the form of finding a nest. I would so much rather be protecting a nest, but those things are out of our control at the moment.

We do know that turtle tracks are usually very visible, but sometimes can be more difficult to spot. So, please remember to look for tracks first and garbage second. Some of you walk the beach looking for tracks and then pick up the litter on the way back. Many of you walk as a team, so you look for tracks and trash simultaneously. Whatever your strategy is, I'm sure the turtles are very thankful for all of your work. Even if they have not nested on our beach yet, they are swimming just off our shore and a cleaner ocean is much better for them and for us.

Trash vs. Treasure
We know that turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish and will often ingest them for food. Well, it seems that we humans make the same mistake (in reverse). Renee was picking up trash in Zone 2 and stopped to pick up what she thought was a Ziploc bag only to discover that it was a jelly fish instead!

Kathleen and Morgan thought they saw a turtle on the beach and rushed closer only to discover it was a person asleep. Julie also found four people asleep in Zone 1.

Dick and Linda's luck turned this week as they found no treasures in Zone 1 and just four bags of trash.

Kim Meyer found a dread lock on the beach, but no person attached. She also found a new fishing or bait net which she gave to someone who was fishing and made him quite happy.

Martha found some really cool toys in Zone 1 and had the pleasure of meeting Doug Beach. Many of you may know him as he picks up trash on the beach every morning in Zone 2. He is always happy to see turtle volunteers contributing to the cause. And yes, Beach is his real last name.

Stephanie collected five bags of trash in Zone 3 and this was only at the tide line!

Annette subbed in Zone 3 and picked up five overturned trashcans and replaced the garbage from those receptacles. In addition, she picked up three bags of trash including a sheet, clothing articles and recyclables.

Jenny Johnston and her family monitored zone 5 on two different days this week and collected lots of cigarette butts. Jenny also saw about 8 -10 neatly piled dead baby sharks by the Oceanic Pier along with a line of charcoal and a partly burned cigarette package. Although the sharks did not appear to be burned, this is a disturbing scene to say the least.

Patterns that have been reported are lots of cigarette butts, straws, plastic wrappers, Sippy drink straw wrappers, children's toys, beach chairs, towels and also the plastic chairs that are left in the tide line at Crystal Pier. Several of you have reported these chairs over the past two weeks. There has been an occurrence in which a sea turtle has become entrapped in a plastic chair in the ocean and has died. Hopefully, Oceanic Restaurant will become more aware of this situation and will secure the chairs at night.

There was only one (unmentionable) reported on the beach this week and it was unopened. But, not to worry, as romance on the beach is not dead. Just read Joy's e-mail below:

Hola Ginger
Well the beach seems so much cleaner than last year at this time. Picked up only one grocery bag of miscellaneous plastic (broken beach toys, straws and covers, caps, etc.), three shoes and four beer cans. There was a group of college-age people with a dog. I told them of the ordinance and they just shrugged. However, at the south part of Zone 5 was a couple in the water having intercourse. It was such a pretty morning for it. They left all their clothes on the beach and I was so tempted to pick it up as litter but didn't. They did come out in all their glory as I walked by going the other way. Other than that a quiet morning. Oh yes lots of cigarette butts.

Why do we care about dogs, holes and structures?
Most of the veteran volunteers understand the dangers that dogs, holes and structures, such as tents and canopies, pose for nesting sea turtles as well as humans, but I will talk about this again as it is obviously still a problem on WB.

Let's start with dogs. This is the most difficult for me to discuss because I personally love dogs and I think they are fun to watch on the beach. I have a dog of my own and would love to be able to take her to WB to play.

However, there is a town ordinance against having dogs on the beach from April to September, and all other months, the dogs must be kept on a leash. I'm not sure what prompted the history of this ordinance, but I do know that these are the busiest months for humans on the beach ;and it is also sea turtle nesting season. Dogs would distract sea turtles from nesting and also may dig up the nests. Other problems that we see are that some owners are not responsible and they allow their dogs to poop on the beach without even cleaning it up.

This week there were two dog poops found in Zone 3 and one in Zone 4. Now, I ask you who wants to step in that when you are having a beautiful day at the beach lounging in the pristine sand? Also, who wants their children to play in sand that may contain dog poop? So, while I would love to take my dog to the beach, I can understand why there are some laws about this. We already have enough trouble with bacteria in our water, do we really want to add to this problem?

Page did kindly inform one dog owner this week that there is a $250 fine for dogs on the beach and the owner told Page they had a permit and quickly disappeared over the next access. A permit? Really? I have never heard of that before....

Onto holes
They are very dangerous for humans and sea turtles. Last year, I spoke about holes dug in beach sand from a scientific and engineering perspective. It is one of the most dangerous holes that can be dug and will easily collapse causing serious injury and sometimes death (60 percent of the time) to the victims who are found in a hole. The beach sand will quickly act as quick sand if it is near the tide line when it collapses. We see headlines and stories of this every year on the national news.

When I presented our information last year at the N.C. State Sea Turtle meeting, many of the beach coordinators and volunteers were as concerned about the issue of holes as they were the issue of litter. This has been a huge problem as nesting sea turtles have become trapped in holes and humans have driven ATVs in holes or walked into holes. Some holes are very deep and can be hard to see, especially at night when one is strolling on the beach.

This week very deep holes were reported in Zones 1 and 4, and 10 holes were reported in Zone 5 on Saturday. By the way, there is also an ordinance about holes on the beach that states holes should be filled in before leaving the beach.

Now about structures
There is an ordinance that states structures are not to be left overnight. Well, eight of you reported seeing structures last week and there was a structure in Zone 1 every day--I'm pretty sure it was probably the same structure. On Sunday, there were five structures in Zone 1--that's almost wall-to-wall structures!

Nesting sea turtles may decide not to nest if they run into a structure on the beach, or worse, they may become injured or entangled in a structure. Structure frames can also be dangerous to humans as they can be difficult to see when people are walking the beach at night. Just this morning, there was a structure in Zone 4 in front of the Blockade Runner Resort that was inside the tide line. This structure could have easily been washed out to sea creating more garbage in our oceans.

If you report the structures, the town will tag them to be removed in 24 hours. However, I have not seen any tags on any structures this year, so I'm not sure if the town is tagging them or not. One volunteer has pointed out that by the time you call, it is sometimes too late, as by the time the town officials arrive, they cannot prove if the structure was left over night or just set up for that day. Hmmm.... maybe other solutions need to be discussed.

Where to find recycling containers
Some of you have asked where the recycling containers are on the beach. Since I did not know where they all are, I did send an e-mail to find out. Below is a response from Mike Vukelich, public works director:

In answer to your question—the current locations of the recycling containers on the beach are:

Public Beach Access No. 4 (L-Shape Lot),

Public Beach Access No. 16 (Johnnie Mercer’s Pier),

Public Beach Access No. 29 (Stone Street)

Public Beach Access No. 36 (Lumina Townhouses)

We will be replacing several of these with corral-type structures housing containers for trash and another for recycling materials at L-Shape Lot, Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and Stone Street. The corrals were donated by Tony Butler’s Hope From Helen foundation, the Wrightsville Beach Merchants Association and the Surfrider Foundation.

What should we do with all of those toys?
A lot of the litter that we collect is truly accidental as it is in the form of children's toys and I have to believe that most, (not all), but most parents do not intend to leave their children's toys on the beach. Many of you have asked if there is a place to donate the toys. So, I am putting the word out. If anyone knows of an agency that could use these toys, please e-mail me and we will coordinate getting the toys to a new home.

Turtle Zen
Here is a message sent to me by Jenny Johnston. I loved this passage so much that I had to share. I think it truly is a reflection of the work we do and the message we share.

Here's a passage from the book "Animal Speak":

... Turtles remind us that the way to heaven is through the earth. In

Mother Earth is all that we need. She will care for us, protect us and

nurture us, as long as we do the same for her. For that to happen we must

slow down and heighten our sensibilities. We must see the connection to all

things. Just as the turtle cannot separate itself from its shell, neither

can we separate ourselves from what we do to the Earth...

Happy Turtling!

Ginger Taylor

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