Welcome to the tenth installment of Plastic and Water Don’t Mix. Since the March 2018 issue of this magazine we have been encouraging coastal anglers to become more aware of the hazards of plastic debris in our coastal bays and waterways. It wasn’t until recently that I personally learned of the potential risks and hazards of micro-plastics entering the marine food chain. (Thank you Stephanie Boyd; The Plasticene Era – Parts 1 and 2, January and February 2018.)
Micro-plastic is term that describes microscopic bits of various plastic compounds, a natural byproduct of plastic decaying and partially bio-degrading in the environment. Many forms of plastic debris appear to disappear but, in reality, it never really goes away. It merely changes its shape and size and remains for a very long, long time.
What happens is that as sun, waves, and sand wreak their obvious tolls on plastic debris and reduce it to tiny particles that are still plastic. So tiny in fact that they mix with algae and plankton and are ingested by organisms that feed by straining such nutrients from the water. Some of these organisms are shrimp and oysters – two of our most popular seafoods.
But there’s more to it. Finfish of various species also ingest micro-plastics, sometimes directly from the water, as in the case of filter-feeding mullet, and also through a process known as bio-accumulation. Gamefish depend on shrimp and mullet for daily nourishment – hence the micro-plastic particles bio-accumulate upward through the food chain. And then successful anglers eat gamefish…
Better plastic management is everybody’s responsibility and should be practiced in everyday life as well as during fishing trips and other excursions to Texas waterways.
This can begin as simply as making sure your plastic wastes are disposed of properly. So many times I see boats being trailered from bait camps and other boat launches and as soon as the rig accelerates to highway speed, all manner of debris begins flying out of the boat and from the uncovered bed of a pickup truck. Bag it during the trip on the water and deposit it in a trash can or dumpster when you reach the dock!
One of the most disappointing sights I observed this past summer was a plastic ice sack filled with empty drink containers lodged in the concrete rip-rap of the Port Mansfield harbor. Whoever bagged it nearly got it right, but obviously failed to dispose of it properly.
And then there is debris that washes onto Texas beaches from faraway places where people just don’t give a damn for the health of our oceans. We didn’t do it but we can darn sure do something about it.
This is where volunteering to participate in a beach cleanup project comes into play and my hat is off to all who donate of their time and resources to do this. Beach and shoreline cleanups come in every imaginable format and size.
In the first installment of this column we featured young Brennen Larson of Seadrift, TX who took upon himself to collect a pickup load of trash, mostly plastic, from a popular bank-fishing spot along FM-1289 in Calhoun County.
Kudos are also due Houston angler, Brian Adams. Brian fishes San Luis Pass and was appalled by the trash he found there – and did something about it.
The Friends of Padre and their annual Billy Sandifer Big Shell Beach Cleanup, the granddaddy of all beach cleanups in Texas – maybe in the whole world!
Miller and Kathie Bassler and their Port Mansfield East Cut and Beach Cleanup – another Texas-sized all-volunteer effort that does such a fine job.
The many local Texas Adopt-A-Beach campaigns, especially Rhonda Cummins and her crew that have labored loyally nineteen years to remove debris from beaches of Matagorda Bay between Port Lavaca and Port O’Connor.
Also worthy of mention is GrassHole Outfitters, a local company involved in the fishing apparel business whose goods are manufactured of recycled plastic fibers spun into polyester cloth – each shirt contains six recycled water bottles!
As well, let us not forget Costa del Mar, the founder of Kick Plastic, and manufacturer of incredible fishing eyewear, for generously helping sponsor this column.
And finally Yeti, the Texas company that has totally reshaped the world of ice chests, drinkware for the outdoors, and beyond. Yeti generously donates many products that we distribute to the outstanding volunteers who help make TSFMag’s Plastic and Water Don’t Mix the success it has been.Let’s all promise to practice better plastic management as we close out 2018. That would be an awesome Christmas gift to our wonderful coastline and all the creatures that inhabit it!