A Talk on the Wild Side.
By Susan Morse, USFWS
There’s no missing Jessica Flory.
This sixteen-year-old gets it.
The volunteer at Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge tells people how balloons and other plastic discards end up on beaches where they choke turtles and seabirds. Then she asks listeners to pledge not to release balloons outdoors; hundreds have signed.
She’s decked out in a dress she made from 87 balloons that refuge staff collected from a coastal island before animals could swallow them. “Hey mom, look,” she hears a kid say. “She’s wearing that because she wants to save the turtles.”
Jessica Flory in balloon dress and sister Hailey on Cape Charles Beach (Photo: Becky Flory)
We’ve all seen the images: Broken boats, trees, docks, what-have-you, swept away by Hurricane Sandy or the 2011 tsunami in Japan and washed ashore miles – sometimes thousands of miles − away.
When storm rubble lands in sensitive wildlife habitats, blocking waterways and changing landscapes as it did in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia this fall, we can grasp the harm that tons of floating trash can do.
But many people don’t understand that marine debris is more than a storm phenomenon. They don’t know that trash litters even the world’s remotest beaches. They don’t know that we can do something about it.
Other wildlife refuges are also calling attention to marine debris. Here are some things they’re doing:
Refuges’ help is welcome, say experts. “There have just got to be more people to get the word out,” says Pamela Denmon, wildlife biologist at Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge.
Read more about refuge efforts to reduce marine debris here.
See photos of marine debris on refuges: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/sets/72157631753678584/
Learn how you can reduce marine debris.
Susan Morse is a writer/editor for the National Wildlife Refuge System