“Forensic Trash Analyst” Reporting From The Beach

My brother-in-law, John, is down at the gulf coast for two months volunteering at  Sea Turtle Rescue  on South Padre Island.   He read an article about the plight of these creatures and decided to drive his little casita down there for a couple of months and see what he could do to help.  He has taken most all of the training at this new hi-tech facility and is shocked to learn about the tragic state of our oceans and how bad it really is.

His updates have been most fascinating, shocking and inspiring.

John is an avid walker and tends to hit the beach for a 3 mile trek everyday before he goes to volunteer.  On his first walk of his first day there, he saw trash that washed up during high tide.   Plastic bottles, caps, bags, shrimpers gloves, toys and fishing line had washed up securely intertwined with the seaweed.  Of course, he quickly picked it up and put it the nearby trash cans.





Everyday on his walks, he discovers another collection of trash exposed by high tide and a new round of beach goers.   By day two he had bought a bucket and an “old person’s grabber tool” to pick up trash along the beach.  Yes, he says he can use that term for the tool below because he is an old person.

His days have evolved into a work-out walk of 3 miles, a trash trek for about 1.5 miles and then about 6 hours volunteering at the Turtle Rescue place. (Yes, he is retired.)

He sends me pictures everyday and reports in on his adventures.  He now has created a title for himself – “Forensic Trash Analyst”.  (FTA for short)

Since I live in the Texas Hill Country no where near an ocean, I find his observations most enlightening.

  1. Shrimpers rubber gloves are a problem.
  2. Plastic bottles are bad, but their plastic caps are even worse.
  3. There was a large collection of floss picks that washed up.  I scratched my head.   Maybe there was a dental convention on a passing cruise ship that passed by South Padre Island.
  4. Diapers – Is it really too much effort for parents to walk to the trash can?
  5. Plastic beach toys, scoops, buckets are strewn about daily.  I guess this happens because they become lost in the sand or people think some one else’s kid might want to play with it?
  6. Plastic  grocery bags – These have become a nemesis for sea turtles who mistake it for jelly fish.  Can you say “Ughhhhhhh” out loud?
  7. Cigarette Butts by the bucket fulls can be found everyday.   In fact, behind the local bar restaurants there are people with rakes trying to remove them from the sand.  Eat, drink, smoke and toss……it’s the American way.
  8. People “thank” and don’t do.  Everyday people stop him with his bucket and ask what he is doing. He tells them he’s picking up trash.     The locals thank him.   The tourists thank him as they make their way down the beach   collecting seashells in their plastic bags.  He sees no one else picking up trash.  Always better when someone else does it.
  9. Fishing Line – I love to fish!  I just learned wade fishing last year.  That makes me aware of the impact of such a serene sport.    Hmmmmmmm…….
  10. MOST SURPRISING – is the “yellow fishing line.”  There was so much of it that he took some to one of the ladies that he met there to see if she knew what it was used for.  She smiled at him and said “I think that is wire coral.” Sure enough, he confirmed it. Oops!  
    In just 10 days, his eyes have been opened on the disgusting state of our oceans.  He’s also learning first hand about the impact of plastic on sea turtles who are our “proverbial canary of the coal mines” in our oceans.

Last night, we talked for over an hour about his experiences.  I was so disturbed and inspired at the same time.

I think there will be an eco-tourism vacation in my future.  To visit, learn, work and make a difference sounds like a great way to energize my existence.  I see the impact it has on John who is already one super high-energy guy.  Now he is like a Monster drink contained in a human body!

Cheers John!    You da’ man!

I visited 4Ocean.com last night and bought a couple of their bracelets to fund the cause.  4OCEAN – $20 bracelet funds 1 pound of trash pulled out of the sea.  In addition to 4Ocean, a long trash boom was launched out of San Francisco this week to help contain the trash in the pacific from Hawaii to the west coast.  Their group is The Ocean Clean Up.  These are great organizations to explore for volunteer work or helping with funding.

I don’t think I will ever collect seashells again.  I will invest in an “old person’s grabber” and hit the beach with my bucket – not a plastic bag.

Posted by Kristi Curry

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