On September 17, 2011 thousands of volunteers ventured out to hundreds of shorelines all over the world for the 26th annual International Coastal Cleanup Day. Here in Seattle, it was the last and coldest Saturday of the summer. And it was certainly the kind of day that put the spirit of volunteerism to the test: sleep in on a gray weekend morning or wake up, face the biting cold and harsh winds, and search for marine debris? The weather (yet again!) dampened another summer 2011 beach outing, but it certainly did not discourage 108 volunteers from spending the morning cleaning up Myrtle Edwards Beach.
Seattle Aquarium volunteers were amongst Newport High School students, volunteers from Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, employees of Bank of America and Amgen and other individuals who are committed to the Ocean Conservancy’s mission. After extra layers of clothing were piled on and the hot coffee was passed around, these volunteers spent nearly four hours scouring a two mile stretch of beach. They collected everything from food wrappers and cigarettes, to car parts and fishing net. At the end of the morning these volunteers removed 879 pounds of marine debris — preventing 3,816 cigarettes, 1,097 food wrappers and 517 plastic bags from flowing out of Puget Sound and into the Pacific Ocean.
Among the more unusual items that were collected was a fishing chair, part of a $100 bill, a boat cabinet door and a nuclear submarine pin. Volunteers gawked at the unusual finds and cheered as they watched their beach become visibly cleaner. The 108 volunteers who spent their morning along the Myrtle Edwards shoreline became part of the nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries that have participated in International Coastal Cleanup Day. On just one day a year, over the past 25 years, these volunteers have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers and the ocean. If you are interested in learning how you can volunteer for a healthier marine environment visit the Seattle Aquarium Volunteering page.