Just before Hurricane Sandy forced us to bunker down for almost five days in Virginia Beach, we participated in a Halloween Themed Zombie River Sweep at Owls Creek hosted by the Virginia Aquarium and the Virginia Beach Surfrider Chapter. Young zombies combed the shoreline for plastic pollution and a young plastic bag monster stirred up the crowd. The Bag Monster was made of 500 plastic bags, the average amount of plastic bags each american uses annually, by some of the local Surfrider activists.
Bag Monsters and Hurricane Sandy
5 Gyres’ Stephen Amato-Salvatierra interviewing the Bag Monster
The Marine Science Center that is part of the Virginia Aquarium has a marine mammal stranding program that brings turtles and dolphins and other animals into the center. According to the2011 summary report, 173 sea turtle strandings were reported in 2011. This sounds like a lot of sea turtles but this is actually below the average yearly stranding numbers in Virginia (271 per year). The report states that at times necropsies revealed that fish lures, fish lines, fish hooks, and plastic debris were found in the sea turtle guts. Many of the sea turtles were also injured from boat strikes.
Following the cleanup, the 5 Gyres Last Straw Bike Tour crew gave a presentation at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, a local restaurant that chooses to use biodegradable straws and had taken several other steps to be more environmentally friendly. Though the sky was spitting rain, a very interested and passionate crowd of surfers and beach lovers filled the small restaurant. Thanks VB Surfrider for making us feel so welcomed and safe!
From Virginia Beach we headed to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where we were greeted with more southern hospitality, didgeridoo music by Jason Andre and two more Bag Monsters. Bonnie Monteleone, a plastic pollution researcher at the University, plastic pollution guru and 5 Gyres Scientific Advisor, displayed her powerful plastic pollution wave art and we shared stories of our research voyages to the gyres around the world at a daytime rally at the center of campus.
The Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation recently made two Bag Monsters, pictured here with some of the 5 Gyres Last Straw Tour Crew.
Jason Andre (on the didgeridoo), Ben Sciance, and Jesse Boni rocking it at a daytime rally to raise awareness on plastic pollution in our Oceans. Bonnie Monteleone’s artwork caught the attention of surrounding students.
It was clear that Bonnie and her crew at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington are making noise in their community. Volunteers from the Cape Fear Surfrider Chapter told us about their efforts to ban cigarettes on campus and I wouldn’t be surprised if plastic bags were next! Bonnie continues to gather scientific data on plastic pollution in the North Atlantic through the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and spreads this information to her students. The students at our evening presentation were very passionate and excited about the issue. Keep doing what you do Bonnie and we will see you soon!