In response to the increase in plastic pollution in coastal zones and ocean gyres, Surfrider Foundation’s Palm Beach County Chapter and Loggerhead Marinelife Center have partnered to bring the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program to Palm Beach County.

“The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program is designed to work with local restaurants and cafés to institute self-regulated ocean-friendly policies,” said Tommy Cutt, LMC’s Chief Conservation Officer. “Through educational workshops on marine conservation and ocean-friendly practices, along with recognition through this certification program, we hope to significantly reduce disposable waste in our oceans and on local beaches.”

“The ocean is turning into a plastic soup,” said Terry Hamilton, Chair of Surfrider Foundation’s Palm Beach County Chapter. “Our local beach cleanups routinely collect huge amounts of plastic straws, foam takeout containers, and plastic utensils. The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program has successfully partnered with businesses across the country, from Hawaii to California to South Carolina, and we’re thrilled to bring the program to Palm Beach County.”

Restaurants participating in the OFR program must abide by the following criteria:
1. Discontinue offering expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam).
2. Follow proper recycling practices.
3. Only offer reusable tableware for onsite dining and provide takeout utensils only upon request.
4. Eliminate the use of plastic bags.

They must also abide by at least three of the following criteria:
5. Provide plastic straws only upon request.
6. Eliminate the sale of beverages in plastic bottles.
7. Offer discounts to customers with reusable cups, mugs, bags, etc.
8. Regularly offer vegetarian/vegan food options. All seafood must be a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” as defined by Seafood Watch.
9. Use water conservation appliances such as low-flow faucets and toilets.
10. Use energy efficient devices such as LED lighting.

Establishments that implement all ten criteria are recognized as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant. LMC’s own Tortuga Café was the first to participate when plastic bottles were eliminated from campus in April 2017.

Palm Beach County restaurant owners and managers interested in participating can contact Tommy at tcutt@marinelife.org.

At the beginning of this year, we began carefully sorting all of the pollution removed from the beach during our cleanup events so that we could track trends in the trash over time.

As of today, we have sorted 24 cleanups in 2017.  Below is a glimpse at what we are finding:

  • Over 41,000 individual items have been removed
  • 73% of the garbage is plastic
  • An average of 21 pieces of plastic are removed for every minute of cleaning the beach
  • We have removed 521 plastic bottles and 5,032 plastic bottle caps

Our most important goal is gaining knowledge so that we can prevent the garbage from being in the ocean in the first place; however, we are also learning more about steps we can take to keep trash out of landfills in the meantime.

This week, we signed up to take part in TerraCycle’s Beach Plastic Cleanup Program.  TerraCycle, founded in 2001, operates in 21 countries to make typically non-recyclable waste recyclable.  They launched their Beach Plastic Cleanup Program in collaboration with Procter & Gamble earlier this year and have already collected more than 25,000 lbs. of waste from European beaches.

Now, after we have sorted our debris, we can box up the rigid plastics and send them to TerraCycle where they will be melted down into pellets and repurposed into Head & Shoulders shampoo bottles.

On campus, we have also eliminated all single-use plastic beverage bottles!  Earth Day marked the first day of Boxed Water sales in our Tortuga Café and Gift Store.  The recyclable cardboard cartons are made using paper harvested from a well-managed forest where new trees are continuously planted.  Boxed Water, an environmentally conscious company, donates 1% of their total annual revenue to the National Forest Foundation’s reforestation efforts.  The boxes still include a plastic cap so we are employing TerraCycle once again to repurpose the caps back into new plastic materials.

Together, these initiatives give us the ability to both minimize our need for plastics and put thousands of pieces of plastic back into the production circle this year, reducing the demand to manufacture more.  The plastic pollution problem is not going to be an easy one to solve but we are grateful for companies that are working to make positive changes that will ultimately decrease the amount of garbage in the ocean.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center receives Cigarette Litter Prevention Program Grant from Keep America Beautiful

National Keep America Beautiful Initiative reports 60 percent reduction of cigarette litter in participating communities during 2016

Juno Beach, Florida – Keep America Beautiful, the national nonprofit that envisions a country in which every community is a clean, green and beautiful place to live, recently announced that Loggerhead Marinelife Center will receive a 2017 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) Grant of $20,000 to combat cigarette litter on more than 50 fishing piers.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center is one of 37 organizations to receive grant funding for 2017, totaling $297,500 through the 2017 CLPP. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, now in its 15th year, is the nation’s largest program aimed at reducing cigarette litter. Communities that implemented the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in 2016 realized an average 60 percent reduction in cigarette litter, an eight percent increase over the 2015 results.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center will install cigarette ash receptacles on all piers involved in the Center’s Responsible Pier Initiative, which was created in 2013 to educate anglers and other pier-goers about responsible fishing and recycling practices, and how to respond if a sea turtle is accidentally hooked. These piers are located throughout Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

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“We are truly grateful for Keep America Beautiful’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program,” said Tommy Cutt, LMC’s chief conservation officer. “In 2016, our staff and volunteers documented nearly 700 cigarette butts on local beaches – also listed on the Ocean Conservancy’s top five deadliest ocean trash items. This grant will enable us to install these cigarette receptacles and help reduce marine debris.”

Keep America Beautiful affiliates, local governments, business improvement districts, downtown associations, parks and recreation areas and other organizations dedicated to ending litter and beautifying communities are receiving grants. Since the establishment of the national initiative, communities in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada have implemented the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program to reduce cigarette litter.

“We are increasingly optimistic about ending cigarette butt litter in America,” said Keep America Beautiful COO Becky Lyons. “Keep America Beautiful and our Cigarette Litter Prevention Program partners are dedicated to educating consumers on the hazards of litter and providing the tools to change their behavior. Recent cigarette litter reduction numbers show we are moving in the right direction towards making the littering of cigarette butts – and littering in general – socially unacceptable in our country.”

Since its establishment, the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by approximately half based on local measurements taken in the first four to six months after program implementation.  Survey results also demonstrate that as communities continue to implement and monitor the program those reductions are sustained or even increased over time. Keep America Beautiful has distributed nearly $3.3 million in grant funding since 2006 to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities.

Grants provided by Keep America Beautiful through the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program fund implementations across the country in a variety of community settings including downtowns, roadways, beaches, parks, marinas, colleges/universities, tourist locations, and at special event locations.

Tobacco products, consisting mainly of cigarette butts, are the most littered item in America, representing nearly 38 percent of all items littered, according to “Litter in America,” Keep America Beautiful’s landmark study of litter and littering behavior. Research has shown that even self-reported “non-litterers” often don’t consider tossing cigarette butts on the ground to be “littering.”  Keep America Beautiful has found that cigarette butt litter occurs most often at transition points—areas where a person must stop smoking before proceeding into another area.  These include bus stops, entrances to stores and public buildings, and the sidewalk areas outside of bars and restaurants, among others.

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The “Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention” provides information about starting and maintaining a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in any community, and can be found online at PreventCigaretteLitter.org. View the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program PSA video on Keep America Beautiful’s YouTube channel as well as the Cigarette Litter in America Infographic here.

The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, an Altria company; RAI Services Company; and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.

 

Last week, I made the short trip south to Key Largo, where our partners at Coral Restoration Foundation were hosting their first annual Ocean Conservation Seminars.  It was an inspiring day of learning and meeting new colleagues from Coral Morphologic, NOAA-NMFS’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Debris Free Oceans, and the Florida Aquarium.

I spoke about LMC’s Project SHIELD and a few of the initiatives we are currently working on.  Following my talk, I was taking questions from the audience when a gentleman raised his hand.  To my surprise, he didn’t have a question at all but instead graciously thanked me and the team at LMC for doing the work we are doing.  “It’s very important,” he said.

I would soon learn that this man was Martin Moe, a well-known and respected pioneer in marine aquaculture and habitat restoration.  Mr. Moe has had an impressive decades-long career including researching red grouper with the Florida Marine Research Laboratory, designing protocols for culturing pompano and tropical fish, and, alongside his wife, Barbara, founding Aqualife Research Corporation in 1973 and Green Turtle Publications in 1982.  Although he is technically retired, Martin is currently working as an adjunct scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory and a member of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.  Today, his research is focused on developing techniques for culturing long-spined sea urchins (Diadema antillarum), a species crucial for the restoration and survival of Atlantic coral reefs.

Following the seminars, I briefly spoke with Mr. Moe to introduce myself and try my best to absorb any knowledge he could impart on me.  He recently sent me one of his writings and was kind enough to give me permission to share it here.  In times when the future of our ocean and marine protected areas is uncertain, we can turn to leaders like Martin, who will continue to inspire and lead by example for as long as they are able.  I hope you’ll enjoy his words as much as I do.

 

Forever

It was the year 1511. The old Calusa Indian sat on the white sand beach of Lower Matecumbe Key, watched his grandchildren play in the clear sparkling waters at the edge of the island and, knowing that his remaining years were not many, contemplated his world, the Florida Keys. His life had been one with the tropical sea and the subtle seasons of these islands; he had never wanted for sustenance or beauty. As the world had been for his ancestors, it was for him, and for those who would follow him. He knew that the spirits of the earth and sea would always provide for the needs of his people.

He thought of what he knew about his world.

The innumerable queen conch of the nearby grass beds, they were Forever.

The huge turtles that crawled on the beaches and lay their eggs, Forever would they do so.

The giant groupers hiding in the rocks and reefs, Forever.

The spiny lobsters found everywhere from bay to reef, Forever.

The sea urchins that lived in the rocks and reefs and buried themselves in the grass beds, Forever.

The Caribbean monk seal, found on sandy beaches and rocky shores, they ranged to every corner of his world, Forever.

The great living rocks, the foundation of his world, the corals that protected the islands during storms and made homes for fish and other creatures of amazing form and color, they were Forever.

He thought that this was how it was, this is how it is, and this is how it would be, Forever. He knew that when his days were done he would still be a part of his world and his world was, Forever. And he was content.

Five hundred years later I sit where perhaps he sat so long ago. My grandchildren play in the waters that sparkle just as brightly, but are filled with the effluent of a civilization unimaginable not so very long ago. My thoughts also wander as my days wind down, as did his. I also love these islands, but I am not content. I know that Forever, is not forever.

Martin Moe

Monofilament is a single strand of thin, durable plastic that is commonly used as fishing line.  It is designed to be nearly unbreakable and invisible underwater.  Like any other plastic, it takes hundreds of years to decompose.  As such, it often accumulates and can wrap around boat propellers, pier pilings, and other structures in the water.  Monofilament is sometimes ingested and can cause entanglement for many marine animals, and sea turtles are no exception.

The good news is – we have some solutions.  At the end of last year, Loggerhead Marinelife Center took responsibility for coordinating FWC’s Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP) in Palm Beach County.  The MRRP is a statewide effort to reduce environmental damage caused by discarded fishing line.  The project includes educational materials, cleanups, outdoor monofilament collection bins, and pre-postage marked shipping boxes so that partners can ship their collected line to Berkley, a brand by Pure Fishing, Inc.  At Berkley, the line is melted down and used to make repurposed materials such as fish habitat structures for lakes and reservoirs.

In November, LMC was given a list of the locations of all monofilament recycling bins – nearly 90 all together – and contact information for the volunteers who had previously agreed to monitor them.  At the start of my internship, I was tasked with updating this list and conducting a site visit at each recycling location.  I visited many different piers and parks, speaking to anglers and sea turtle partners as I went.  While most bins were in excellent condition, there were a few that needed to be repaired, and many, unfortunately, that I was unable to locate.

Throughout the rest of my term, I will be working to repair and replace damaged bins and assign volunteers to complete weekly or monthly checks in each location.  When the bins are full, the responsible person will take the collected line to LMC where it will be cleaned and packed for shipping and recycling.  We have recycled more than 80 miles of monofilament line in the last two years – most of which was collected from the Juno Beach Pier.  We expect our efforts to greatly increase now that we have expanded from four bins to more than 80.

If you are interested in adopting one of our monofilament bins or would like a list of locations where you can recycle your line, please contact vmorris@marinelife.org.

I’d like to introduce our Fall 2017 Conservation Intern, Vanessa Morris.  A native of Swainsboro, GA, Vanessa recently graduated from Armstrong State University in Savannah, and has been working with LMC since January.  Her main project this semester is managing all monofilament recycling bins in Palm Beach County.  She coordinates with volunteers checking the bins, empties the line when the bins are full, cleans and recycles the line, and repairs broken bins when necessary. She is also helping to sort and log hundreds of pounds of garbage collected from beach cleanups, recording boat speed data in the local area, and teaching responsible fishing methods to young anglers.

Although her sweet southern drawl is so thick that sometimes, we have to ask her to ‘spell that,’ she has quickly become an invaluable part of the team.  Her dedication and consistent positive attitude have won over everyone at the center.

Vanessa will be sharing an update on the county’s monofilament bins this week.  Stay tuned to learn more.

Each spring, LMC holds our annual TurtleFest event.  We shut down Loggerhead Park to host artists, merchants, musicians, food and drink vendors, and conservation partners for a day-long festival to promote our mission and engage the community in the work we do.

This year, we had a few changes in mind.  While all of the most-loved festival components will still be featured, we are working hard to eliminate single-use plastics, greatly reduce the amount of waste produced, and improve the overall sustainability of the event.  Staff and volunteers will be inviting guests to participate in the conservation conversation throughout the day.

You can help by:

  • bringing your own water bottle or purchasing a TurtleFest 2017 one
  • bringing your own shopping bags
  • bringing a bucket and joining a morning beach cleanup
  • bringing a mat or towel and joining a yoga class
  • carpool with friends or ride your bike – a volunteer will oversee the bike valet for the duration of the event
  • choosing a vegetarian option at the festival – veggie burgers, falafel, grilled veggie sandwiches, pizza and more will be available

We speak to more than 10,000 people at TurtleFest every year.  This year, we hope that every single guest will leave with the knowledge of at least one way to protect the environment.  Together, we can make better choices each day.  Together, we can begin to reverse the 8 million tons of plastic pollution entering the ocean every year.  Together, we can live a bit more gently and pass along a cleaner, healthier Earth to the generations that will follow.

We hope to see you at TurtleFest this year.  The event will be held on March 25 from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM at LMC and Loggerhead Park.  Please email Demi at dfox@marinelife.org with any questions.

The first two Saturdays of every month, LMC’s Juno Beach Pier staff leads Kid’s Fishing Programs to teach young anglers responsible fishing practices.

During their lessons, the students learn basics such as the various types of fishing rods, how to tie knots, how to bait their hooks, and how to cast from the pier.  Especially important for us, are the conservation measures instilled.  After a brief lesson in the classroom, we walk the half-mile from the center to the pier collecting trash accumulated in the wrack line along the way.  Our students are always amazed by the amount of trash they can gather in a short, 15-minute walk.  Once at the pier, staff focus on habitat protection, sea turtle rescue, the proper way to remove hooks and release fish, and the importance of recycling monofilament fishing line.

The last couple of lessons, our newest responsible anglerKFPs haven’t had much luck at the pier.  Thankfully, the regulars, some of whom fish on the Juno Beach Pier every single day, are happy to help inspire the next generation.  They can tell – by the wind, the weather, the season – what species of fish will be running and exactly where to catch them.  If they notice a fishing class on the pier, they call us over when they have a fish on the line.  They help the students reel the fish in, remove the hook, and allow the children to take a few quick pictures proudly holding ‘their’ catch.  The kids listen so carefully when the pier’s regulars are teaching them – they know there is a lot to learn.  At the end of the lesson, we thank the anglers for their help and leave them to their craft.

 

It is this kind of cooperation, passing on knowledge and traditions from seasoned anglers to kids who have never picked up a fishing rod before, that allows us to build relationships with the fishing community.   We rely on them to keep the pier environment clean and healthy and to help us rescue incidentally hooked sea turtles when necessary.  They know the environment best, they observe it every day, and we are grateful to have them on our team.

To register your child for a Kid’s Fishing Program or to book a Private Fishing Lesson (for children or adults), please contact Kate at kufford@marinelife.org.

At Loggerhead Marinelife Center, we host and support several cleanup activities.  Some are quarterly, some are monthly, some happen more frequently than that.  These include: Blue Friends Society Beach Cleanups, Deep Blue Yoga classes, Kid’s Fishing Programs, Jupiter Waves Beach Cleanups, Juno Beach Civic Association Beach Cleanups, underwater cleanups at the Juno Beach Pier, private groups, and special event cleanups.  Unfortunately, there is no shortage of garbage on the coast.

While we are sometimes discouraged by the amount of trash we find, ultimately, it is our driving motivation for planning more cleanups and working harder.  In a perfect world, we would no longer have to clean the beaches, but since we do, we are grateful that we have the platform, and the help, to do it.

Following each cleanup, LMC’s Sorting Team weighs each bag and empties the collected debris onto a tarp.  The trash is sorted into several specific categories, counted piece-for-piece, and recorded into our database.  Our hope is that by studying the trends in the amount and types of pollution that wash onto our beaches over time, we will be able to better understand where the trash is coming from and therefore, better prevent it from being there in the first place.

We find all kinds of things in the trash we sort: bottles, straws, toothbrushes, toys, wrappers, balloons, clothing.   But, the vast majority, no matter the time of year or location, is plastic.  Plastic does not biodegrade but instead photodegrades.  The sun breaks the plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces over time.  Some of these microplastics sink and some float enabling distribution throughout the water column.  They collect in ocean gyres and are all too often consumed by marine species from the bottom of the food chain to the top and every step in between.  Studies are currently being conducted on the human health repercussions of the plastic in our ocean.  The long-term effects are still unclear though recently, a study on cultured oysters being sold for human consumption found that one dietary serving (six oysters), would contain approximately 50 plastic particles (Van Cauwenberghe and Janssen 2014).

Cleanups are an important immediate solution that can greatly benefit marine life.  But, cleaning up a mess that is still flowing into the ocean every day won’t get us anywhere fast.  We can all take part in reversing this problem.  Take a look at any plastic item you use just once and throw away.  Can you replace it with a reusable version?  Share your ideas with us, we would love to hear from you!

Join us for upcoming cleanups:

  • Deep Blue Yoga class and cleanup: 2/11 at 7:30 AM
  • Kid’s Fishing Program: 2/11 at 8:00 AM
  • Jupiter Waves Beach Cleanup at Coral Cove: 2/12 at 9:00 AM
  • Blue Friends Society Beach Cleanup: 2/18 at 8:30 AM

Please contact Demi at dfox@marinelife.org for information on any of the above.

Van Cauwenberghe L, Janssen CR (2014) Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption. Environ Pollut 193:65–70.

If you’ve gone shopping for accessories such as sunglasses or hair clips in the last 40 years, you are probably familiar with the ‘tortoiseshell’ pattern – mottled black and brown markings.  The original tortoiseshell products were made from the shells of hawksbill sea turtles.  Poaching and commercial exploitation of the turtles were among the most significant factors in the decline of the hawksbill population.

 

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Hawksbill sea turtle, Palm Beach County, FL. Photo: Alan Egan

 

Hawksbills, named for their ‘raptor-like’ beak, are well known for the distinct colors and patterns on their shells.  Unlike other sea turtle species, their carapace (top shell) is comprised of overlapping scutes (keratinized scales) which historically, have been used to make jewelry, jewelry boxes, combs, and other small, decorative items.  Although the international trade of hawksbill items was halted in 1973 due to CITES, the products are still being sold in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean today.

 

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Hawksbill sea turtle, Palm Beach County, FL. Photo: Alan Egan

 

The Too Rare To Wear campaign was developed to promote education and help eliminate the demand for turtle shell products by bringing conservation organizations, media partners, and tour operators together.  Loggerhead Marinelife Center is proud to join this coalition of conservation partners to share the educational message and assist with the global protection of hawksbill turtles.

For more information on the project, check out this video.

Take an active role in conservation by signing and sharing the pledge.

Please contact LMC’s Conservation Department with any questions.