On February 26, 2015, Santa Barbara Adventure Company organized a volunteer trip to Santa Cruz Island and collected over 1,300 pounds of trash to raise awareness about the growing problem of trash accumulating in our oceans. Key organizers of the event were Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, Santa Barbara Adventure Company, and Island Packers. Additional participants included, Environmental Defense Center, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, Aquasports, Channel Islands Outfitters, the Santa Barbara Zoo, Ty Warner Sea Center, California Condor Project, and Four Seasons Hotel.
“We’ve spent all summer out there taking folks on tours to show them this beautiful place. Today we are proud to do something good for the environment in return,” said Michael Cohen, Owner of Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
Nearly 40 volunteers scoured a 2-mile stretch of beach on the southeast side of Santa Cruz Island, an area known as “Yellowbanks”. Derelict fishing gear washed ashore from heavy winter swells was found scattered everywhere. Plastic garbage was the next most common type of debris encountered. The debris was shuttled by kayak and zodiac raft to a vessel owned and operated by Island Packers, the Channel Islands National Park transportation vendor. The material was then taken back to the mainland, weighed and disposed of by the National Park Service. Participants estimate that at least one ton of additional derelict fishing gear had to be left on the beach for lack of space on the return trip.
Alex Brodie from Island Packers said, “It’s amazing how much trash we pick up off these islands. You can tell some of it is generated locally, but some travels from all the way across the ocean.”
In addition to improving conditions on the island, the event was also intended to raise awareness about the troubling issue of marine debris currently plaguing our oceans. A recent study co-authored by UCSB professor Roland Geyer indicates that it is likely that 8 million metric tons of plastic waste finds its way to the ocean each year. That’s enough to cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan, ankle-deep in plastic waste. The clean-up on Thursday proved that local ecosystems are not immune to this global problem.
Ben Pitterle of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper said, “We do what we can, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, and it goes to show you that trash ultimately needs to be eliminated at the source. We need better policies and practices to minimize our waste streams and prevent debris from reaching the ocean in the first place.”