The focus of this column since its inception has been to increase the awareness of the harmful effects of plastic refuse in coastal waterways among fishing enthusiasts. You may recall the discussions of how plastics never really go away, even when they disappear from sight in the coastal ecosystem. The subtle reality of plastic is that even when it degrades it’s still there in the form of microplastic particles – some too small to see with the naked eye.
Microplastic particles, unfortunately, become mixed with algae and other tiny food substances ingested by animals that filter nutrients from the water. Prime examples of these are oysters, shrimp, and finfish such as mullet. Some plastic particles are voided with the animal’s waste products but a surprising number are tiny enough to actually become absorbed into body tissue. If we eat shrimp and oysters, we are at risk of ingesting plastic ourselves. In the case of mullet, while we do not eat them, the gamefish species we seek (and enjoy for dinner) eat mullet every day. And so it goes.
There are many forms of proactive plastic management fishermen can practice and we have highlighted many. The most basic and simplest is that if we don’t take plastic on the boat, it won’t end up in the water. I could discuss dozens of other great practices fishermen can adopt but the thrust of this month’s column is more about hands-on involvement in the effort to remove plastic debris already littering waterways, shorelines, and beaches.
There are a great number of cleanup activities we can participate in during the coming months and I want to highlight some of the more notable events that present excellent opportunities for involvement with families, schools, and civic groups, etc.
The Texas General Land Office began sponsoring coastal beach cleanups way back in 1986. Since those early days 54,000 volunteers have removed 9,700 tons of debris from Texas beaches. What an amazing record of achievement! Adopt-A-Beach events are coordinated coastwide with literally dozens of facilitated sites twice a year – spring and fall. Learn more by logging into Texas Adopt-A-Beach for specific times and places.
So, if you’re ready to pitch in and help clean some beaches, here’s where you can get started:
-GLO Adopt-A-Beach February 07, 2020: South Padre Island (Contact GLO)
-GLO Adopt-A-Beach February 08, 2020: Coastal Bend (Contact GLO)
-Billy Sandifer/Friends of Padre Big Shell Beach Cleanup on Padre Island National Seashore (the granddaddy of Texas beach cleanups): February 29, 2020 (Contact Tyler Thorsen 361-779-3044 – FriendsofPadre.com)
-GLO Adopt-A-Beach April 18, 2020: Coastwide (Contact GLO)
-Port Mansfield East Cut and Beach Cleanup June 06, 2020: Port Mansfield (Contact Miller Bassler 979-324-5555, or visit Port Mansfield East Cut Cleanup on Facebook)