Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Curtis Cove Report - Feb 26, 2013

February 26, 2013. 2:00PM, a couple hours before low tide. My last cleanup of Year 1 at Curtis Cove! Bright sun, 40 degrees. Rough sea, but little wind.

The big breakers out on the outcrops at the head of the cove = soggy & sloppy sand & mud & wrack smeared up and down the shore. A real mess of a beach!

But the first hopeful signs of spring behind the backshore. As I had a big group of witnesses to my efforts this day:
The scooped-out sand and wave-dragged wrack from the backshore spoke of the power of the past week's seas.
And of course stormy days bring lots of plastic "gifts." Including ones that have no business on a beach. A soda/water bottle I could understand. But a honey-bear jug??
Even better, this week brought the remains of a plasticized menu from a Kennebunkport restaurant. From 2007!
We place restaurants right next to Maine's windy coast, and populate them with plastic plates, cups, bottles, ketchup packets, sauce tubs, salt & pepper shakers, forks & knives -- and now even menus. And we wonder why our ocean looks like it does.

So, surprising no one, a very busy day.
236 pcs of rope, about 550 ft total
110 pcs of nonrope debris
346 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 0
  • Foam/styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing rope/net: 236 (about 550 feet)
  • Fishing misc.: 34 (19 bait bags, 3 vents, 2 trap tags, 8 vinyl coating scraps, bumper, clawband)
  • Food-related plastics: 23 (3 bottlecap seals, 16 cup scraps, drink wrapper, ketchup pack, honeybear jug, 2007 menu!)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 5 (2 whole/new cans, 3 can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 31 (11 bag scraps, 2 mylar balloon scraps, 2 latex balloons, 3 balloon strings, thread spool, tampon applicator, toy shovel handle, pressure-treatment tag from 1988, 5 cable ties, EXIT (?) sign scrap, 2 end caps, plunger scrap)
  • Scrap plastics: 13 ( 9 > 1" , 4 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 4 (2 gloves, 2 fabric pieces)
Yet again, fishing debris far & away took the gold this week. Stormy weather & choppy seas tends to fling floatable plastics up and over the outcrops at the cove's head, which is what happened here with the vents, bait bags, and trap tags.

The waves also brought weirdness. The honeybear, the 2007 menu. And this 25-year-old tag from a piece of pressure-treated lumber. Looking brand new!
Tampon applicators were a scourage for me at Bay View beach in Saco. Not many here at Curtis Cove, thankfully. But the cove isn't immune:
And, as always, the poignant bits of seabottom plastics with fish/crustacean bites & pokemarks all through them:
A heck of a thing we do to our world.

Year One Total counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 13854
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 4011 (~6600 feet)
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 5245

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Curtis Cove Report - Feb 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19. 11:45AM. A very raw & icy day at the beach.
With ice on the low foreshore and drifts of snow higher up, only the thin wrack line was thawed and searchable this day. I thought it was going to be a quick & unimpressive cleanup.

Until I started seeing these.
Vinyl scraps, from lobster traps. The huge mat of fine, pulverized seaweed (including all that white skeletal coralline algae) is a sign of a very gentle high-tide. One that lets the finest bits settle out on the sand without being washed back. The perfect conditions for the vinyl trap coatings.

So, my hour-and-a-half was quickly spoken for by this thin sliver of shoreline between ice and snow. In the end, of course, I found more than vinyl. Such as:
Coffeecup lids wash in every week
And a surprising amount of fishing rope too for such a thin strip.

All told, it was a shockingly big haul for a beach that was mostly unsearchable.
76 pcs of rope, about 60 ft total
467 pcs of nonrope debris
543 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 0
  • Foam/styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing rope/net: 76
  • Fishing misc.: 422 (8 claw bands, 2 trap bumpers, 2 bait bags, 410 vinyl scraps!)
  • Food-related plastics: 11 (bottlecap scrap, cap o-ring, 7 cup scraps, bread tag, fork scrap)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 2 (aluminum can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 10 (bag scrap, bandaid, degraded detergent jug, 2 cable ties, 3 vinyl upholstery scraps, sleeve, duct tape)
  • Scrap plastics: 20 ( 3 > 1" , 17 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 2 (glove, metal washer)
Without question, the story of the day was the vinyl trap scraps. 410 of them on just that one strip of exposed land.
All told, 498 pcs of the 543 -- 91.7% -- was plastic lobstering debris. As I describe in more detail in my Portland Press Herald blog piece, "A Vinyl Tide," someone will have to pay for this. We can start now, changing the way we fish our waters and paying the extra price at the plate for better gear in the ocean. Or we can leave it to our kids and grandkids.

One way or another, someone will have to pay.

Running YTD counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 13508
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 3775
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 5237

Monday, March 4, 2013


410. That's the number of little bits of vinyl coating from lobster traps I found on February 19. All picked from a thin unfrozen line at the back of the foreshore at Curtis Cove, Biddeford, Maine:
That makes 5237 pieces from the cove in the past year.

We consumers demand "cheap" food, "cheap" everything. In the 1970s, plastic-coated lobstering gear became readily available. Seeming cheap & effficient, Maine lobstermen had no choice. They had to start using it. Those who didn't, soon became ex-lobstermen, pushed out of a competitive business by downward pressures.

See more about the issue of plastic fishing gear in the Gulf of Maine at my Portland Press Herald blog "Undercurrents." A brand-new article on this topic posted today!