Over 200 volunteers picked up over two tons of trash, enough to fill a 30-yard dumpster, at Elmer’s Island last month as a part of International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Hosted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Nicholls State University and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, volunteers at the annual event held Sept. 16 picked up 4,007.8 pounds of trash.
The most common trash collected was 3,441 plastic bottles, followed by tiny plastic pieces and plastic bottle caps.
Although a lot of the debris was from visitors of Elmer’s beach not disposing of their trash, the majority comes from other places, said Allyse Kerrara, a Nicholls biology professor who helped organize the event. Because the island is close to the mouth of Bayou Lafourche, it could have washed down the bayou or come in from offshore.
“People really need to learn to properly dispose of trash because it ends up on our beaches. Even if it is improperly disposed of in inland areas, it can wash down waterways and end up in the ocean,” Kerrara said. “By 2050, some experts estimate more weight of plastics in the ocean than fish.”
Jesse Dubose, a senior microbiology student at Nicholls, said he was surprised how many people volunteered this year and it showed him people are starting to care about the island.
“This isn’t where I grew up, but it’s close enough to where this is where we would go fishing all the time,” said Dubose, a Prairieville native. “I spent many a summer down there just hanging out on the beaches. This is home, so you have a sense of pride when it comes to it, and you don’t want to see it trashed or overly eroded. I have a sense of wanting to take care of it personally.”
He was also surprised at some of the more unusual items found on the beach, such as an 80-pound tar ball and a boat water heater.
The Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge was restored as a part of the Caminada Headland Restoration Project. The island was reopened to the public last fall after the more than $200 million project.
The project was paid for by state tax money and payments from BP from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It aimed to protect Port Fouchon, a nearby oilfield hub, and people’s homes and businesses from storm surge by restoring more than 800 acres of shoreline and beach.
“It was just incredible for us and our students and the volunteers that had seen Elmer’s Island before it was restored to actually go out there and see how incredible the place looks,” Kerrara said. “We basically want to get our students and the general public out into our incredibly beautiful habitats to experience them, to appreciate them and to help restore them.”
-- Staff Writer Holly Duchmann can be reached at 857-2205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @holly_evamarie.
Posted on Tue, October 3, 2017
by Holly Duchmann, Daily Comet Staff Writer