August 20, 2017

Spring Break: Combing the Beach for Shells + Trash

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At last, we finally got to check off one of the stops on my planned itinerary: the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. We headed over late in the afternoon for a family program called Boca Beachcombing, which included a 30-minute show-and-tell session led by a staff member on shells and marine life, followed by a short drive to Red Reef Park for some actual beachcombing.

The introductory show-and-tell session was interesting. The instructor showed us more than a dozen shells and we learned a little bit about how each one was created. We then drove over to the beach armed with plastic bags for collecting ocean treasures. Despite high hopes, we found little more than a few sea coconuts, which look like brown golf balls, covered with little white barnacles.

We also saw several Portuguese Man O’ War that had been washed up onto the beach. These are a type of jellyfish and can sting so we avoided these on our walk. Okay, we did pick up a few shells too, but mostly what we picked up was trash: plastic lids, straw wrappers, an empty juice box and a few shreds of a plastic bag.

Sure I was disappointed that we didn’t find the “perfect shell,” but it was a great opportunity to talk with the kids about keeping our beaches clean. In the classroom session, the instructor told us that 95% of sea birds have plastic in their stomachs that they’ve scooped up off the beach. Many of these birds even die because the plastic in their bellies makes them feel full and they starve to death. So sad.

So we picked up trash, and by the end of our Boca Beachcombing experience, that was one clean section of beach. That also prompted me to research the importance of clean beaches and what we can do to help. There’s a great article here on the website of the Clean Beaches Coalition focused on how to eliminate marine debris. I also found another article on how to organize a beach clean-up. If we lived near a beach, I’d definitely want to organize a beach clean-up, even just with my kids and their friends.

Have you ever organized a beach clean-up? Maybe even just with your family? I’d love to hear about your experience.

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