BREVARD COUNTY — Picking up after yourself should be common sense, however, beachgoers who leave trash behind underestimate how much their bad deed can impact the environment.
Nonprofit organizations Save the Manatee Club and Keep Brevard Beautiful are partnering up for the first time to host a beach cleanup.
Participants will meet up at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 at Lori Wilson Park, 1500 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach.
Organizers will provide buckets, gloves and trash pickers. Sunscreen is advised for those planning to be involved.
“This is the first time we’re doing a cleanup in Brevard County; we’ve done a few in Volusia County, mostly at Blue Spring State Park,” said Cora Berchem, manatee researcher and multimedia specialist. “We’re trying to expand our cleanup efforts to other areas of the state.”
Save the Manatee Club was established in 1981 by former Florida Governor and United States Senator Bob Graham and musician Jimmy Buffet. It aims to save manatees by protecting its habitat and by educating the public to reduce manatee injuries caused by boating incidents.
The nonprofit is also involved in projects across Florida, West Africa and South America.
“Trash in the environment is a really big problem for manatees and other wildlife, so that’s why it’s really important for us to be proactive in participate in those kinds of things,” Ms. Berchem said.
During the warmer summer months, manatees can be found in shallow coastal waters, according to Ms. Berchem. The trash people leave behind will fly into waterways that end up entangling and harming a manatee.
Previous park cleanups at Blue Spring State have yielded up to 80 pounds of trash picked up by volunteers, with items found from cans and bottles to cigarette butts and plastic.
Manatees are currently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but it was just a few years ago that they were listed as endangered.
“Save the Manatee Club is not too happy with that decision because manatees were never originally put on the endangered species list because of their low numbers,” Ms. Berchem said. “They were put on that list because of all the threats that they’re facing.
“The threats for manatees has really gone up over the years,” she continued. “We’re having a really bad year in terms of watercraft mortalities. We see a lot of habitat destruction and algae blooms that are harmful to manatees, and ingestion of trash, which can also kill manatees.”
The public can help manatees by simply picking up their own trash, or even go the extra mile by picking up trash near them when at the beach or a local park. Those who enjoy boating are advised to adhere to speed limits by going slow in manatee habitats; and finally, if anyone sees a sick or injured manatee, they are encouraged to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For more information by Save the Manatee Club, call (800) 432-5646 or visit www.savethemanatee.org.
To reach the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, call toll free to (888) 404-3922.