NEST Jr.ReporterAs summer approaches, it is exciting as water temperatures warm and more people travel to the beach to enjoy all that the ocean has to offer during the busy season.  While an increased amount of people visiting the beach is beneficial in many ways such as supporting the local economy, the ocean and all the creatures that live in it can suffer if humans are not cautious with their actions at the beach.  There are several issues affecting marine life that are increased during the summer months when volume to the ocean side is high. Nesting season begins during the summer, and nesting sea turtles depend on quiet and clean beaches to lay their nests.  An increased amount of trash is not only harmful to nesting sea turtles but to other marine life as well.  Higher human activity in the water can also be dangerous to sea life if caution is not taken.

Sea turtles begin to nest in the summer at night and depend on beaches free of debris and obstacles in order to lay their nests.  However, there are often holes dug in the sand from the previous beach day as well as sand castles and other beach equipment such as cabanas, chairs and toys.  While these things are of good use during the day, it is important to take them down and store them somewhere other than the beach when they are done being used for the day.  Smaller objects such as buckets and shovels can also be washed into the ocean if left on the beach, harming other sea creatures as well.  To help nesting mother sea turtles, please fill in holes and level sand castles made during the day and take all beach equipment back for storage during the night.

As the amount of people spending time at the beach increases, it is an unfortunate fact that the amount of trash on the beach increases as well.  This trash does not only take away from the natural beauty of the ocean side; it is also harmful to the creatures that live in the ocean.  It is important to minimize the amount of trash that ends up in the ocean when spending time at the beach.  This trash can be ingested by sea turtles and other animals and cause them to become very sick and even die.  Animals can also become entangled in marine trash, making it hard or impossible to swim, fly, escape predators, or eat.  Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this trashy problem: clean up after yourself!  Make sure to throw away trash in a trash can, and if there isn’t one at the beach you are at, take it with you to another trash can. Just please do not leave it on the beach!

The ocean can be enjoyed at the shoreline or out on the water or by boating, kayaking, and other water sport activities. If not used with caution, though, marine life can suffer from human errors and end up hurt or even killed.  Boats with propellers must watch out for marine life that may be in their path of travel, especially those that are slower-moving such as sea turtles.  Many sea turtles, healthy or sick, bear propeller scars on their shells or flippers from boating incidents.  It is also important to leave marine life alone in their natural habitat.  In some coastal areas that have coral reefs, delicate coral structures can be destroyed by a careless flipper of a snorkeler.  Please take care to not destroy coastal ecosystems and leave sea grass, oysters, and marsh areas alone.  These structures provide many things to the diversity of life that thrives in coastal areas.

I love the ocean as much as you do, and summer is certainly the best time of year to enjoy it.  As coastal communities prepare for another busy summer season, please do your part to help keep the ocean beautiful and healthy. Remember to keep the beaches clear of obstacles for nesting sea turtles, pick up and throw away beach trash, and be careful of marine life and their habitats when you are in and around the water.  It is important to care for the ocean, the area around the ocean, and all the animals in it to continue enjoying all that it has to offer.