With some elbow grease, the Taylor Shellfish Farms’ broodstock department battles to dispose rusted oyster gear and derelict rope into dumpsters at Willapa Bay. (Becky Mabardy/Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association)

Volunteers clear tons of trash from Coastal, Strait beaches

More than 200 volunteers cleared several tons of debris from more than 50 beaches along the Pacific coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca during this month’s International Coastal Cleanup, said Washington CoastSavers coordinator Jon Schmidt.

Schmidt, a Sequim resident, said the exact weight of debris collected Sept. 17 is unavailable now but that “it’s safe to say several tons of debris were collected from the outer coast and several hundred pounds from the beaches on the Strait. We know there were 100 volunteers who cleaned the Strait beaches.”

The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is a global cleanup effort organized by the Ocean Conservancy each third Saturday of September.

Washington CoastSavers — which oversees cleanups on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and along the Pacific coast — and Puget Soundkeeper — which oversees beaches in the Seattle area — serve as local cleanup coordinators in Washington state.

“It’s wonderful to see the energy of the coastal cleanups continue to grow and expand,” said Carol Bernthal, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary superintendent.

“We need all the help we can get in protecting our ocean.”

Debris data cards go to an international database managed by the Ocean Conservancy. Information about the amount of trash collected will be included in an annual index of global marine debris released in 2017.

Last year, nearly 800,000 volunteers collected more than 18 million pounds of trash from shorelines around the world.

“The data gathered at ICC events provides information that can inform policy solutions and identify target areas where preventative solutions will make the biggest difference,” Schmidt said in a news release.

”ICC events also raise awareness of the pervasive marine debris issue and bring together people and organizations that care about the health of our waterways.”

Following the cleanup, about 50 volunteers attended the second annual Salmon Feed Poetry Read in Forks, Schmidt said.

Tim McNulty, a Sequim poet and nature writer, and Bernthal from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary were two of the featured readers for the event potluck hosted by the Clallam Bay Sekiu Lions Club, Surfrider, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, North Pacific Marine Resources Committee and others, Schmidt said.

About a dozen other people shared stories, poems or songs, he added.

“It was a special evening that we hope will continue next year,” he said.

Disposal costs for dumpsters on the north coast were sponsored by Olympic National Park.

For the first time, the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (PCSGA) funded a half-dozen dumpsters for the south coast.

The dumpsters were placed in strategic locations from Long Beach to Ocean Shores for both beach cleanup volunteers and shellfish farmers.

Schmidt said the donation saved CoastSavers an estimated $2,500 in dumpster rental and disposal costs.

Great assistance in cleaning the south coast was also provided by the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, which started Operation Shore Patrol in partnership with Washington State Parks in 1971, making it one of the oldest beach cleanup efforts in the country.

The organization continues to send hundreds of volunteers to Long Beach, Westport and Ocean Shores to clean the beaches during the third week of September, coinciding with the date of the International Coastal Cleanup.

Founding members of CoastSavers include representatives of the Lions Club International, Discover Your Northwest, Surfrider Foundation, Grass Roots Garbage Gang, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

Since 2007, their efforts have removed tens of tons of trash off the beach during the Washington Coast Cleanup, which occurs in April every Earth Day weekend.

This is the fourth year the organization has participated in the International Coastal Cleanup.

The next coastwide beach cleanup will be April 29.

For more information, see www.coastsavers.org.