A sea turtle shell, a whale skeleton, a message in a bottle, and several pounds of trash. What do all of these have in common? These are things I came across while walking the beach this past summer. I was fortunate enough to vacation at Chincoteague, Virginia, and Bethany Beach, Delaware. One of the best beaches in the mid-east for shell searching is Chincoteague, at least, in my opinion. Unfortunately, every beach, even those that comb the beach every day, has trash to be collected. Here is a list of awesome things we found in 2018 along with some pictures, followed by the biggest offenders we uncovered.
Behold the Beauty of the Beach
We found a sea turtle shell along with a lot of its bones nestled between the cove and the shore. The outer shell was over four feet in length, though hard to tell due to so many missing pieces. Sea turtles can migrate well over 1,000 miles per year, so finding a large skeleton is not unheard of, but the size always puts their extraordinary life into focus. Several other bones, a dried up Blowfish/Pufferfish, a jaw with teeth, several large conch shells, and a whale skeleton (which we were not able to photograph) were all amazing finds. By far the coolest treasure this year was the message in a bottle I found in Bethany Beach. If you have not read my blog about this find, I highly recommend it.
The Ugly Side of Beach Life
My family has always collected trash on the beach. We walk with buckets or trash bags while we stroll along. Sometimes I forget a bag but am always “rewarded” with finding one during the walk. I filled up an entire trash bag in Bethany Beach which consisted of shoes, sunglasses, bottles, bags, wrappers, and tampon applicators (gross). In Chincoteague, I didn’t have a bag on hand but found several floating down the beach and quickly filled them with straws, plastic bottles, caps, nets, rope, fishing gear, and beach toys. Not everything found in the ocean is from neglectful citizens. Often when we toss something in the trash, we think we’ve done your part. However, landfills flood, trash barges lose objects, litter on the streets, or things blown out of trashcans almost always lead to the sea.
What were the biggest offenders I found? Balloons and ribbon. Please stop buying balloons and please don’t send balloons up into the sky on purpose. Consider purchasing balls for your kid’s parties, use paper streamers, flowers, paper signs, fabric banners. Not only is there a helium shortage but balloons take a long time to break down, sometimes even years. The chemicals in the latex and Mylar balloons are toxic to the environment. Also, the ribbons used on balloons tie around seaweed and other debris creating a floating island. I often find sea life tangled in a mess of ribbon.
There has been a lot of straw shaming this year, and I’m not taking away from that, we do uncover a lot of straws. However, in my opinion, balloons are the biggest threat to the ocean I saw this past summer and something so easily avoided.
Are you a trash collector? What are some interesting things you have found on the beach? Whenever we find toys my kids get so excited and we add them to our collection. How about you?