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Atlantic Canadians have an inseperable connection with the ocean. It is part of our heritage and our history. We depend on the ocean to secure a source of revenue, to transport our goods, to gain a sense of peace and connecction with our environment. Few places on earth can rival the splendour of our beaches and coastal landscapes.
We have long believed that the sea could absorb our sewage and garbage indefinitely. Today, we see that this is not the case. We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful coastal areas of North America, and it is important we take care of it.
Become a steward of your local aquatic environment. The "Beach Sweeps" information kit was prepared in order to meet the needs of those concerned about the extent of marine debris and who want to become actively involved by cleaning their local shores and beaches. Remember, your Beach Sweep doesn't have to occur along an ocean coast - it can also be the clean-up of a lakeshore, a riverbank, or even a community pond. Because waters from these sources flow into the ocean, it is equally important that they too, be cleaned up!
Marine debris of all types is building up in our oceans, along our coasts, and on freshwater shorelines across Canada. Plastic debris, including polystyrene, represents more than 50% of the debris collected during beach clean-ups. Plastics pose a particular problem, for the same qualities that make them useful - lightweight, solid and durable - allow them also to endure for a long time in the environment. The threat of plastics to the marine environment has been ignored for a long time, and its seriousness has been only recently recognised. Until now, the perceived abundance of marine life and the vastness of the oceans have lead many people to dismiss the increasing volume of plastic debris as a hazard to aquatic environments.
The threats to marine life from plastic debris are mostly physical, due to ingestion or entanglement. Studies have found that in addition to fish, sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals are particularly vulnerable, because they confuse plastic debris with their usual prey species. The accumulation of debris in sediments can also interfere with the normal functions of ecosystems, and alter the make-up of life on the sea floor. Lost fishing equipment can continue to harvest fish for long periods. The threat can also be chemical; toxic chemicals leaching from ingested debris have been documented in birds and turtles. There is also increasing evidence that drifting plastic could be contributing to the introduction of exotic species in coastal ecosystems, with resulting detrimental impacts. (Derraik, José G.B. 2002. The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44, 842-852.)
The negative economic impacts caused by marine debris are difficult to assess. It can damage boats used for recreation and fishing, causing losses of time and costly repairs. The tourism industry, notably eco-tourism, needs clean, healthy beaches to attract visitors. Regardless of the source, marine debris is an eyesore on our shores and can be as equally hazardous to humans as it is to marine life.
Even if the production and disposal of this debris were to stop suddently, it would continue to harm marine life for many decades. Thinking globally and acting locally is a fundamental attitude to reduce such an environmental threat. Ecological consciousness through education is likely the best way to solve this environmental problem.
Conducting a Beach Sweep is fun, simple, and rewarding! The success of your beach sweep depends upon good planning and common sense. This kit will allow you to organise a safe and productive cleaning activity, for the benefit of your community.
Tell the volunteers that they need to be dressed for the occasion. Weather conditions for beach clean-ups are not always ideal; volunteers should wear a hat, rainproof clothing and protective footwear. People should also bring gloves and a backpack for snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, mosquito repellent and water.
Always emphasise security precautions.
Local agencies and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) can assist you in identifying sites of fragile habitats along the shore. Once these sites have been located, clearly mark them and inform all the volunteers where they are located.
Make sure to thank all the participants. Having a picnic or a barbecue after a "Beach Sweeps" day is a good way of saying "thank you" to the volunteers; it's also a good opportunity to acknowledge the results of your efforts.
Make sure your festivities do not harm the environment by following these suggestions:
Once you have determined the area to be cleaned, write down on the poster included in this kit - the location, date, and time the clean-up will take place, along with the name and telephone number of the contact person. Spreading the word about your "Beach Sweeps" can be done through word of mouth, the media or posters. The "Beach Sweeps" kit includes an example poster that you can photocopy several times and use to promote your activity (don't write anything on the original so you can use it for future clean-up activities).
Posters are very effective in high visibility areas such as community centres, local grocery stores and corner stores.
In the past, the enthusiasm and interest of the media have attracted volunteers and drawn the attention of the public to the problem of marine debris. Make a list of the media sources in your region, including newspapers, radio stations, community television stations and local publications like parish newsletters, school newspapers, municipal newsletters and electronic newsletters from environmental organisations.
The information of interest to the media might include: the number of volunteers participating, the length in kilometres of the site cleaned, the type of debris collected and an estimate of the volume, the predominant kind of debris, what could be recycled and, finally, some of the more bizarre objects collected. The volunteers will also be interested in knowing this information. Share it with them and they will in turn share it with the rest of the community.
From life-giving rain, to life-saving medicines; from seafood gathered on the ocean floor, to goods transported on the ocean surfaces; from the oxygen we breathe, to the biodiversity that holds together the web of life; the oceans play a vital role in our lives and are essential to our survival. Canada's oceans are an integral part of our national identity. They grace the coast with breathtaking beauty and awesome power, and are key contributors to Canada's natural wealth, providing habitat for wildlife, recreational opportunities, a way of life for coastal people, and inspiration to writers and artists.
Canada's oceans support diverse and growing economic activities. With this growth we risk becoming victims of our own success. Marine debris reflects the gradual degradation of our fragile marine environment. Thinking globally and acting locally is a fundamental attitude to reduce such an environment threat. Ecological consciousness through education is likely the best way to solve this problem. The Beach Sweep kit has been designed to assist concerned volunteers carry out a safe and pleasant beach cleaning activity.
The spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia) is the most common bird on our shores. We chose its image for the "Beach Sweeps" program to symbolise clean shorelines.
By getting involve in shore clean-ups, people can play an active role in the protection and maintenance of coastal zones, which are important habitats for fish, plants and wildlife. By participating, volunteers become aware of the negative impacts caused by the accumulation of marine debris on our coasts. This activity will also have a positive impact on the behaviour of the public and water enthusiasts.
This guide was develop to help individuals and groups organize an activity that is safe, educational and pleasant.
Marine debris is an internation preoccupation. "Beach Sweeps" programs are taking place in coastal regions around the world. Although it is important to increase public participation is shore clean-ups, it is even more important to reduce and eventually eliminate the need for these programs. That's where we make use of the debris inventory list.
Inventory results will be used in the fight to reduce marine debris at the source. Inventories help scientists and governments determine the origin and the path travelled by marine debris. This helps in finding solutions that should eliminate the problem before it even occurs. For these reasons, we encourage the participants to keep a detailed inventory list of the debris found and to return it to the appropriate organisation at the end of the activity.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports and encourages communities to take responsibility in protecting fish habitats. The Oceans Act recognizes the importance of ensuring the preservation of oceans and the sustainable uses of their resources.
The New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund supports community-based watershed and coastal management groups seeking to improve their local environment.
The New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government's mission is to provide leadership in protecting and enhancing the environment, thereby contributing to the environmental, social and economic sustainability of New Brunswick, for present and future generations.