Beach cleanup events always amaze me. I’m happy to say our first Mission Possible: Clean the Bay Day was no exception but perhaps exceeded any expectations I had for the afternoon. Created in partnership with SeaWorld, the event was developed to takle water quality issues in Mission Bay through debris removal, an area we all agreed needed attention.
Kicking off from South Shores Park boat ramp in Mission Bay, 149 volunteers woke up exceptionally early on a Saturday and set out by foot, kayak, and boat to do their part in keeping our water clean. While most of the volunteers worked from land, two kayakers from the community came out to collect debris further from shore. San Diego Coastkeeper’s 19′ Boston Whaler, Clean Sweep, joined the event as well, alongside two SeaWorld vessels.
While most beach cleanups tend to bring out the “best of the best” in San Diego, this was one to remember. These volunteers included families with small children, high school clubs, friends and coworkers. One group was there to celebrate a birthday, with her gift request being that they attend the cleanup with her. “Lauren’s Present”, as they called themselves, went on to win SeaWorld Tickets and a penguin encounter for collecting the most cigarette butts. For those who are wondering, they collected 200 cigarette butts.
It’s going to be difficult to top the work our volunteers did that day. In just a few hours, they collected 430 pounds of debris. For those having a hard time visualizing that, it’s the weight of a young male sea lion. By weight, this is the most debris collected at any San Diego Coastkeeper event this year. The next closest was just over 200 pounds removed by 236 volunteers in Oceanside.
Many of the 9,060 items were what we usually see at beach cleanups but in larger quantities than we’ve seen this year on beaches. 430 plastic bags, 1,582 cigarette butts, 974 plastic food wrappers and nearly 500 glass bottles and fragments topped the list.
It was truly a collaborative event, with SeaWorld and the US Coast Guard joining us and supporting a phenominal effort by the San Diego community. Thanks to SeaWorld, 100 participants returning bags of trash, were rewarded with a ticket to the park, and several groups, like “Lauren’s Present,” walked away with top honors in special categories including “Bring Your Own Supplies” and “Most Unusual Item.” The award for “Most Trash Collected” went to an outstanding group from Poway High School’s Surf Club, hauling in 40 pounds of trash and earning SeaWorld tickets and dolphin encounters.
Cub Scout Pack 1209 Den 4 used the event to teach their scouts about the “leave no trace behind” policy. Collecting five pounds in their bag, one parent explained how amazing it was that so many small items, like plastic and styrofoam, added up to be so much. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
While San Diego Coastkeeper looks forward to a repeat event next year, we hope that those enjoying Mission Bay throughout the year do their part to “leave no trace,” just like the Cub Scouts. Just like each piece of trash adds up quickly, so do individual actions. Help us set a new record next year, making Mission Possible: Clean the Bay our first cleanup where marine debris is nowhere to be found.