Suzy Pappas from the Coastal Cleanup Corporation recently served as a guest speaker for the Cutler Bay Senior High School COAST Academy.
The Coastal Cleanup Corporation (CCC) is a nonprofit in South Florida with a primary focus on restoring sea turtle nesting beaches in Biscayne National Park. She visited with students explaining how volunteers detect and remove marine debris that washes up with the currents, tides, and winds onto the coastal dune habitat on the barrier islands within Biscayne National Park.
In the past six years, CCC has engaged volunteers in approximately 5,000 volunteer hours during 81 cleanups to restore sea turtle nesting habitat on Elliott Key, Sands Key and Old Rhodes Key. Last year alone, the volunteers removed more than six tons of harmful discarded fishing nets, marine rope, fishing gear, foam buoys and floats, plastic and rubber items, glass bottles, and lumber from the remote beaches. Sea turtle monitors have observed a significant increase in loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting activity on the island and, for the first time, have observed a nest from an endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
Coastal Cleanup Corporation’s volunteers continually find and remove marine debris that are locally and globally derived. Much of the debris has drifted to the beaches via tides and currents from the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, each new tide brings in more floating marine debris that is deposited along the shore.
The tremendous amount of accumulated marine debris presents challenges to nesting female loggerhead sea turtles; it blocks the pathway to the sand dunes where they nest, and it has the potential to entangle the nesting turtles and their hatchlings. Donations can help support volunteers in removing this debris from the sea turtle nesting beaches, surrounding seagrass, and mangrove forest shoreline.
After the presentation Pappas shared with students used derelict crab and lobster buoys collected during a beach cleanup to create their own works of art. The idea was for the students to reflect and bring awareness about marine debris. Students involved will also be taking part in coastal cleanups throughout the school year.
Marshall Ruffo, lead teacher and Science Department chair coordinated the activity.