Cambrian: Opinion

Cambrians, here’s how you can help Sullie save the seas

Plastic bottle caps such as this one are among the most common kinds of trash found on San Luis Obispo County beaches during last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day.
Plastic bottle caps such as this one are among the most common kinds of trash found on San Luis Obispo County beaches during last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day.

Sullie, an aging gull, is distressed and angry about the trash left by people on the beach. Sullie’s granddaughter was permanently crippled from entanglement by plastic waste — or so goes the story, “Sullie Saves the Seas,” in a children’s book by ocean activist Goffinet McClaren. McClaren is not local, but the story she wrote is both universal and very local. As a matter of fact, during the last Coastal Cleanup Day in San Luis Obispo County, more than 6,500 pounds of trash was removed from our beaches and creeks by 1,200 volunteers.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, volunteers can choose among 30 regional sites set for cleanup, and join in “the largest volunteer event on the planet,” according to International Coastal Cleanup Day, organized by the Ocean Conservancy. Worldwide, about 12 million people volunteer for this one-day event.

Mary Ciesinski, executive director for ECOSLO, heads the local effort. More than 600 locations in California will participate in Coastal Cleanup Day. Nearest to Cambria, from Arroyo Laguna Beach to Morro Strand Dog Beach/Toro Creek Beach, the following sites will welcome trash-collecting volunteers:

▪  Arroyo Laguna Beach

▪  San Simeon Cove/Hearst State Beach San Simeon

▪  Pico Creek “San Simeon Beach” (parking lot across from San Simeon Campground)

▪  Santa Rosa Creek Beach/Moonstone Beach

▪  Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

▪  Estero Bluffs

▪  Cayucos Pier

▪  Morro Strand State Beach — North Beach

▪  Morro Strand Dog Beach/Toro Creek Beach

To sign up, visit Ciesinski said that while people can just show up, “it’s preferred that people sign up ahead of time so we can best prepare supplies for each site. It’s helpful if they bring their own garden/work gloves and a bucket and/or bags.”

Central Coast residents know that fall offers some of the best beach outings. Families are encouraged to participate but, “volunteers 17 years of age and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian,” Ciensinki said.

Cambria’s P.J. Webb has volunteered with this project for 15 years. She confirmed that Coastal Cleanup Day makes for a positive family outing.

“We have local Girl Scouts that come, and families that plan a family outing day,” Webb wrote in an email.

The first California coast cleanup began in the mid-1970s, when an Arcata recycler operated beach cleanups in search of recyclables. Oregon, however, was the first state to organize a state-wide volunteer beach cleanup in 1984, called the “Plague of Plastics.”

The California Coastal Commission began the California Coastal Cleanup in 1985. From 1985 through 2016, a total of 23,054,067 pounds of trash and recyclables were removed and properly disposed or recycled by 1,437,549 volunteers, the commission reports.

Ciesinski said that she wouldn’t mind if more locales were added to the cleanup in SLO County. “We have 30 sites already, and are still searching for volunteers for those sites. We can always add additional sites, though, as long as there is a leader available and willing to lead the cleanup effort that morning. It’s always great to add more sites because it’s more trash rescued and debris data tracked for our county,” she said.

McClaren’s marine debris battling gull, Sullie, forms a secret society of shorebirds that take on the task of teaching humans about leaving all sorts of litter on the beach. They mourn the loss of their pal, Stub, a dolphin that choked to death on a plastic toy that washed into the sea; and they skirmish to save Tatoosh Turtle, a 30-year-old sea turtle sick and near death from ingesting plastic bags that floated into Tatoosh’s habitat.

Sullie completes his mission to educate humans about the multitude of debris commonly found during beach cleanups, and like the more than 1,000 volunteers on our local beaches on Coastal Cleanup Day, takes a relaxing rest on a beautiful beach.

Charmaine Coimbra’s column is special to The Cambrian.

Kinds of beach trash

What kind of trash can a volunteer expect to find? Here are the top 10 finds in SLO County in 2016:

▪  17,259 cigarette butts

▪  5,193 pieces of plastic

▪  5,170 food wrappers

▪  2,714 glass pieces

▪  2,141 plastic bottle caps

▪  1,416 pieces of foam

▪  1,342 plastic to-go containers

▪  1,255 metal bottle caps

▪  1,197 beverage cans

▪  1,111 each — straws/stirrers and forks/knives/spoons