Marine Debris Clean Up
Egg Island Clean Up Project
In 2009 Prince William Soundkeeper, in partnership with the Prince William Sound Science Center, conducted a marine debris assessment and clean up on Egg Island, a barrier island on the western edge of the Copper River Delta. Building on the 2009 work, a second Egg Island project will be conducted in the summer of 2010.
The purpose of the project is to remove debris; assess and document debris collected to determine its origin and impacts; conduct a prevention education and outreach program to the commercial fishery fleet; and to raise public awareness regarding marine debris, its impacts and ways to prevent these impacts.
Egg Island provides habitat to 30 shorebird species on outer beaches and 24 shorebird species in the dune system including Sanderlings, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Western Sandpiper; and the world's largest colony of Glaucous-winged Gulls. Several species of mammals are known to occur on Egg Island. Harbor seals forage on large spawning runs of salmon and eulachon in nearby shallow waters, and haul out on island shores in late winter and early spring. Brown and black bears have been known to walk across the tide flats to graze on beach greens and prey on nesting and molting glaucous–winged gulls along with their eggs and young.
consultation with area biologists, determined August to be the
optimal time for the Egg Island clean event in order to avoid
critical summer nesting time for shorebirds, hawks and gulls. A core
team of 13 volunteers was recruited for the event, 9 students
volunteers for a survey and 4 additional volunteers for the trash
pick up following the clean up itself. Volunteers ranged in age from
middle school students to adults and included fishermen, scientists,
an environmental attorney, writers, artists, environmental advocates
and others. In July, working with
our primary community partner, the Prince William Sound Science
Center (PWSSC), PWSK's Citizen Environmental Monitoring Program
director worked with a PWSSC high school oceanography class to survey
marine debris deposits on Egg Island, mapping debris and calculating
densities by walking transects in preparation for the August clean up
project. Transects covered the main depositional zone but also
included the interior of the island where very few bits of garbage
were found. The highest concentration of garbage calculated in a
single transect was 299.2 pieces of plastic, 33.9 pieces of glass,
and 20.3 pieces of metal per acre. The average density for all
transects were 54.7 pieces of plastic, 8.3 pieces of glass, and 4.7
pieces of metal per acre.
On August 7th, the volunteer clean
up team met over a potluck dinner for orientation, to view the film
Synthetic Seas, and to discuss the impacts of plastics on the marine
environment. The following morning, the team took a short flight via
local air taxi to the project site on Egg Island where they would
stay for 24 hours. Upon arrival they walked the deposition zone
documenting each piece of garbage and picking up all plastics but
leaving glass and metals. That evening the team camped on the island
and discussed the day's events and findings over a campfire.
Beginning the following day trash was removed in two phases, the
first via the flights used for volunteer travel. The remaining trash
was staged for a second pick-up several weeks later which was led by
a team of volunteer commercial fishermen via commercial fishing boat.
All garbage collected is being stored for educational and outreach
purposes. Useable items were saved, #1 and #2 plastics separated and recycled.
Feedback from volunteers following was very positive and demonstrated the knowledge gained and impact resulting from the experience. For example, volunteer Ellen Americus stated “The clean up impacted me a lot. The next week when I went shopping, the experience made me much more attentive to my shopping choices.” A teenage volunteer went home to his family and told them they were “forbidden to buy any disposable plastic water bottles!”