Oregon Marine Debris Team Asks for Volunteers to Help Clean Beaches
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff
(Oregon Coast) – It's a call for volunteers from four major organizations that look out for the Oregon coast – a need for citizens to come out and help patrol and clean up the beaches as more of the Japanese tsunami debris comes rolling in. (Tsunami debris in Gearhart recently. Photo: Jim Furnish)
Four nonprofits have joined forces to create the Oregon Marine Debris Team: CoastWatch, Surfrider Foundation, SOLVE and Washed Ashore, along with academic partner Oregon Sea Grant. Together they're collaborating on citizen-based efforts to track and clean up debris generated by the tsunami that struck Japan in March, 2011. An estimated 1.5 million tons of debris was pulled out to sea by the tsunami and is circulating the Pacific. An unknown portion is likely to wash up in Oregon.
The Oregon Marine Debris Team is trying to bring together hundreds of volunteers to carefully monitor the coast, identify and report areas where the tsunami debris is piling up, and then to help out in cleanup efforts. Those willing to give a hand will be assigned to pools of volunteers available to respond to cleanup alerts in a given area.
Oregonians interested in being part of a citizen-based effort to take care of the Oregon shore are encouraged to sign up and get on the list for notification at this link here. Or you can contact Briana Goodwin, SOLVE, firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 844-9571, x317, or Phillip Johnson, CoastWatch, email@example.com or (503) 754-9303.
Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation's Oregon Field Manager, said that public agencies are dealing with a huge array of issues regarding the tsunami debris on the state, national and local levels. Many of those entities will be setting up phone hotlines, providing debris receptacles and handling the larger material or that which is dangerous in some way.
Plybon warns, however, even these large-scale efforts will only go so far and a whole new kind of grassroots involvement from the public will be needed.
"Cleaning up our beaches relies upon all of us,” Plybon said. “The key to responding to this challenge to our coastal environment lies with educating and activating volunteers. Hundreds of people are needed to monitor every beach, cove and headland for marine debris. Hundreds are needed to turn out for cleanups. Agencies are not able to do that. It is up to us, the people who care for our coastline and take responsibility for it, to step up. Our role as non-profits is to provide the support to make that happen."
Preparations began early this year for the tsunami debris, even though its arrival wasn't expected for another year or so. With the surprise inundation of some major items and vast numbers of smaller plastics and other objects, the four groups forming the Oregon Marine Debris Team must now work even faster. 13 workshops were held in early 2012 and a database of potential volunteers was collected from these.
The team needs many more, however. The debris deluge may last years.
CoastWatch is the only program in the U.S. where citizens adopt and watch over the entire shoreline.
SOLVE is the famed non-profit that creates the big volunteer beach cleanups twice a year.
The Oregon chapters of the Surfrider Foundation have long organized citizen and volunteer based programs from beach cleanups to water quality sampling. Oregon chapters executed over 36 beach cleanups in 2011 and have nearly twice that many planned for 2012.
Washed Ashore is based in Bandon, a unique project in which volunteers gather marine debris and process it into art supplies to create monumental sculptures.
CoastWatch Director Phillip Johnson said this state has an extraordinary tradition of public use of the shoreline and public stewardship over it.
"The Oregon Marine Debris Team is another expression of that. If there is a threat to our beaches, we need to step up as citizens to deal with that, not wait around for someone to take care of it for us. That is the reason all these organizations exist in the first place, and it is the reason we have come together to collaborate on the tsunami debris challenge."
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