January 15 - Coastkeeper, Surfrider Beach Cleanups Could Save Region Over $2.5 Million

New Report Contracted by EPA Estimates Litter Management Costs for California Cities

SAN DIEGO January 15, 2013–– San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter—two of the region’s leading environmental organizations—host volunteer beach cleanups that could save the region approximately $2.5 million annually in beach debris cleanup.

According to a release today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contracted Kier Associates to quantify the amount that 90 cities throughout California, Oregon and Washington watersheds are spending to clean up litter and prevent trash from entering our oceans. The report estimates the average city spends $.83 per person for beach and waterway cleanups. When extrapolated across San Diego County, with a population of just over 3.1 million, that amounts to over $2.5 million.

In 2012, more than 4,000 volunteers removed almost 7,600 pounds of trash, about an average of 1.7 pounds per person. Rotating through popular beaches throughout San Diego’s coastline, the two groups coordinate twice-a-month beach cleanups together, in addition to numerous special cleanups throughout the year. Last year, volunteers collected the most trash at Mission Beach while Ocean Beach traded its dirtiest ranking the last three years to become one of the cleaner beaches in 2012.

“Instead of leaving debris cleanup solely to the governments, at the cost of taxpayers, our volunteer-based cleanups are good for the region’s environmental and economic health,” said Mallory Watson, community engagement coordinator for Coastkeeper.

According to 2012 data, cigarettes, Styrofoam fragments and plastics too small to be identified accounted for more than 60 percent of the debris collected. Of the 181,776 pieces of trash collected in 2012, nearly 40 percent was cigarette butts (a considerable increase from 2011). Plastic pieces accounted for 30 percent of the total number of items, including parts of bags, bottles, cups, straws, food wrappers and other plastic items.

"Litter generally travels before it hits our beaches, so the best way to keep our water clean is to make sure the litter is caught and disposed of early," said Haley Jain Haggerstone, chapter coordinator for Surfrider San Diego.
The report estimates the average cost for comprehensive litter control programs in a region the size of San Diego County could cost as much as $20 million.

To help solve these pollution problems and volunteer at beach cleanups, interested community members and visitors can help at one of the 35 cleanups already in the works for 2013. Surfrider and Coastkeeper ask volunteers to bring their own reusable bags, gloves and water bottles. Volunteers can find the full cleanup schedule at http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org or http://www.surfridersd.org.

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San Diego Coastkeeper

Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at http://www.sdcoastkeeper.org.

Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 250,000 supporters, activists and members worldwide. For more information on the San Diego Chapter, go to http://www.surfridersd.org.

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Fishable Facts

  • Kelp forests play home to more than 700 species of marine creatures.
  • Many factors including pollution, climate change, and over-fishing contribute to kelp forest decline, and their collective impact is far greater than any individual stressor.
  • Research has shown that grazing by inflated sea urchins populations damaged kelp forests and slowed recovery in the '50s to '70s off Point Loma. Sea otters, lobster, and sheephead fish are important predators, keeping urchin populations in check.
  • Many fish off California's coast are in such decline that some species will take 50-80 years to recover to healthy levels.
  • La Jolla's lush kelp forest is like a stand of underwater redwoods – it provides food and shelter for hundreds of species, from tiny invertebrates to fish, mammals and birds.
  • Since 1990, revenues from commercial fishing have declined by more than half and the number of fishing boats calling at California ports has declined by nearly three-quarters.
  • Average size across a wide range of West Coast fish is down by half from 20 years ago.
  • A 40-cm bocaccio rockfish produces an average of just over 200,000 eggs per year, whereas an 80-cm fish at double the length produces nearly 10 times as many eggs (2 million)!
  • Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources.
  • Regardless of their size, plastic pollution bits are not digestible by any creature.
  • More than 60 percent of all marine debris is plastic.
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