A few years ago, as seen in this photo, I was doing a beach cleanup at the South end of Topsail Island and came across this Common Loon that was hooked, tangled, and emaciated. I was able to grab him, remove the hook and line, but he was still in bad shape. I took him to Possumwood Acres Wildlife Rehab in Hubert where he recovered and was released. This is not all that uncommon and happens from time-to-time when surf and pier fishing.
This summer, while attending the Southeastern Marine Debris Consortium Workshop in Charleston, I got a text message from a friend, who was pier fishing, with a photo of a Loggerhead Sea Turtle entangled in his line. I immediately sent him a text back asking him not to cut the line, but it was too late.
This is a common problem with fishing, catching something that you don’t intend to. There are few things you can do to avoid catching something you don’t intend to catch when it comes to pier fishing, unless you avoid fishing all together, but you can take steps to save the creature you accidentally captured and prevent future entanglements with the same line (monofilament line doesn’t biodegrade so it is in the marine environment forever) and that line can become a future death trap for even more creatures.
Here are some steps to take if you ever find yourself in this predicament.
1. Don’t PANIC!!
2. Don’t cut the line!!!
1. Slowly reel the bird in and do not shake the bird loose.
2. Call a local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
3. Wear Sunglasses and gloves if you have them to prevent injury – birds are feisty!
4. Tightly grab the bird behind the eyes and hold it’s legs – you may want to fold the wings and straddle the bird with your legs to get him/her under control.
5. Cover the bird’s head. This will to calm him/her down in case you are going to remove the hook yourself, but you can also rely on the Wildlife Rehab Center to do this for you.
6. If the bird is entangled, cut the line only when you have full control of the bird.
7. If you remove the hook and line and the bird looks healthy, release him/her carefully. If the bird looks unhealthy or tired, call the Wildlife Rehab Center.
8. Don’t forget to recycle the line!
FOR OTHER MARINE LIFE including SEA TURTLES:
1. If there are surfers in the water, yell down to them and ask for their help. Most surfers are eager to do so and would be thrilled at the chance. Surfers are already in the water and depending on the size and type of marine life you captured, they can unhook and you are back to fishing in no time.
2. If there are no surfers in the water, simply walk the pole and line down the pier until whatever you caught is on the beach, then have someone help you remove the hook.
3. If it is a Sea Turtle, call the closest Sea Turtle Hospital or Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
4. Report what happened with the local Marine Fisheries Department. They might be interested in the data.
For more information about entanglements, monofilament recycling, and marine debris, please contact the NC Marine Debris Symposium at RidTheSeaOfMarineDebris@gmail.com or go to http://www.ncmarinedebrissyposium.com
The Blue Heron Bridge, also known as Phil Foster Park, has to be one of my fav shore dive sites. It is located in Riviera Beach, Florida. It features an “Underwater Snorkeling Trail” that is perfect for non-divers and the diving there is spectacular considering the max depth is around 15ft. The area is full of marine life including seahorses, octopus, pipefish, sea robins, batfish, flying guards, stargazers, and nudibranchs of over 100 different species.
One of the cool things about this site is easy access. Grab your gear, check the tides, and head out. You want to dive this site at a slack tide for the best conditions. The current can get very strong under the bridges and can pull you right into the boat channel quickly in between slack tides.
There are some small wrecks toward the Singer Island side near the east bridge and an underwater shopping cart graveyard of sorts amongst other notable sites.
There are also showers, a bath house, plenty of parking, and a lifeguard stand under the bridge as well.
I have had the opportunity to dive this site several times during a few trips to Florida and I always see some new creatures. I also always find debris to remove coming from roadside litter and boating debris washing over from other areas and also coming from folks tossing items over the bridge. It can be a bit frustrating, but also motivating so I always bring my trusty Project AWARE dive agains debris bag.
For underwater cleanups, I like to make sure the dive shop that I rent my tanks from have recycling stations. This way if the location I am cleaning up does not have recycling, I can drop debris when I drop my tank.
Tricks to an underwater cleanup include:
1. Bringing a mesh bag (Project AWARE also has great mesh bags and also bio bags for underwater cleanups),
2. Bring a knife to cut line (I’ve recently been an entanglement victim and it is not fun, but with a knife is not as scary as it sounds),
3. Focus on non-biodegradable items such as plastics, if you pickup glass bottles make sure there are no creatures living in or on them – if so leave it – glass is just silca (sand) – it’ll be okay right where it is,
4. Stay buoyant – don’t let your bag drag the ocean floor – you could damage reef, etc.,
5. Finish the dive when you cannot keep buoyant with the bag,
6. Have fun – don’t just focus on trash, check out the wildlife – that’s what diving is all about,
7. Report your findings using the Marine Debris Tracker App and Project AWARE- be sure to track as close to the site as possible – if you are on a boat – track before you leave the site, if you are at a shore dive – track at the shoreline – Think Surface Interval Fun!
8. Tell the local dive shop about your findings. This is super important. If there is a large amount of debris that you couldn’t get to, they might be encouraged to do their own underwater cleanup event with a larger crew. Be sure to tell them about Project AWARE, although I am sure they will already know since you did your research on eco-friendly and conservation conscience dive shops,
9. Blog about it, share pics and stories on FB, Twitter, and other social media outlets to encourage others.
10. Report your photos and data with the North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium (NCMDS) folks (even if it is out of State) here by emailing RidTheSeaOfMarineDebris@gmail.com and use the Marine Debris Tracker App if you are doing shoreline cleanups.
This was my intro article with Beach Carolina Magazine.
Please allow me to introduce Coastinista, a new, and almost, daily cup of coastal conservation and eco-awareness. Let’s get right to it with your daily cup (pun intended today). I was enjoying my morning cup of java this morning and it made me think of ways to reduce waste while caffeinating.
Consider what type of coffee pot you use. Is it plastic or metal and does it use single-use plastic cups or filters? These considerations might not be at the top of your priority list when it comes to huge environmental impacts, but everything adds up. Just take a tour of your local landfill and you will see just how much it adds up.
I have been using an old fashioned percolator since as long as I can remember. There are no plastic parts, with the exception of the plastic cover on the handle. This means that no hot water ever touches plastic, which is a big deal since heating up plastic can leach dioxins into your coffee at over 100 times the “safe” level – ewh! Having a metal percolator or even a glass french press also means that it is highly recyclable if it breaks.
Using a metal percolator that has a metal filter means it is completely reusable. No muss, no fuss, and it saves dollar bills. Coffee filters, on average, run about $25.00 a year if you make one pot of coffee each day, which let’s face it – most of us do that and more. That doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but that $25.00 buys a tank of gas in my little car or two tanks of air (underwater obsessed).
Now let’s talk single-use plastics. Coffee stirring straws are a NO in my book. First, they are plastic (like diamonds, plastic is forever!) and you are only using it for seconds and then it is tossed. It has been estimated that 138 billion plastic coffee stirrers are used worldwide!! That is a lot of plastic ending up in our landfills or worse, our oceans. Use a spoon, a wooden stirrer, or pasta. Personally, I bring a set of bamboo utensils where ever I go to avoid single-use plastics and I include a bamboo straw just in case I feel the need for a little almond milk in my dark roast.
What about the plastic “K-cups”? It has been estimated that 1 in 5 consumers are now using the single cup coffee pots. What’s the problem? That is A LOT OF WASTE!!! According to Mother Jones, all of the single-use plastic coffee K-cups solid in 2013 would wrap the Earth a total of 10.5 times! These are ending up in your backyard landfill, because most places do not accept the type of plastic being used and most consumers will not take the time to empty the coffee and then recycle them. I have even picked these up during beach cleanups. Not really sure how they ended up in the ocean, but not super surprising considering how many there are out there.
The environmental cost of the K-cup is significant, but what about your wallet? The New York Times recently calculated that K-cups coffee costs about $50 per pound! How much do you pay for coffee? Even the organic, fair trade, best coffee I ever had ranges from $10-12 a pound and most K-cups are not organic. Oh and did I mention they are made of plastic – remember my dioxin mention? Ewh!
This magical machine that delivers morning joy to our lives everyday is still something that makes life great and there is nothing like a hot cup of joe on a fall day here at the Coast, but consider these steps when breaking out your next brew:
1. Consider a Metal Percolator that uses a reusable metal filter or a French Press – They make the best (doesn’t taste like plastic) coffee!
2. Don’t use plastic stirrers at home or away from home.
3. Stay away from POLYSTYRENE (Styrofoam)! It is not recyclable in almost every part of the world and it is a form of plastic (Doesn’t biodegrade so it is forever!). Polystyrene cups are one of the most littered items on Topsail Island, NC this year, along with cigarette butts which is always at the top of the list.
4. Bring your own mug everywhere you go. Refilling is way better than recycling and most coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own mug. Plus, I usually have pretty rad coffee mugs that I would much rather sport around than the alternative.
5. Consider buying organic and fair trade coffee (I like beans and grind them myself to make it super freshy).
6. If your coffee pot breaks, recycle it at the nearest Electronics Recycle Station. Check with your local Solid Waste or Sanitation Department. Electronics (TVs and Computer Equip) are actually banned from NC landfills meaning that communities in NC already have a way to process your coffee pot for recycling. For a list of other landfill banns, see: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wm/sw/landfillbans
7. Compost your coffee grounds. This is just another way to reduce your waste and coffee grounds, along with other food scraps, create really great organic fertilizer when composted.
8. Bring your coffee pot with you. Traveling soon, consider bringing your metal percolator with you. Hotels mostly have plastic coffee pots or single-use plastic k-cups. Reducing waste is just as important when you are away especially in remote locations, like islands, where solid waste facilities are hard to come by and the cost of handling waste is high.
Diving off Fort Lauderdale at the Donald McAllister Wreck in October 2014
I adore the Outer Banks and find myself traveling there at least 3-4 times a year. This past April, I was there for the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum (in Hatteras) Underwater Heritage Symposium: A Salute to the Pioneers of Diving.
On the way there, it got me thinking about how awesome it is to travel by ferry. It’s super relaxing and you cannot ask for a better view.
I took some super random vid short shots of the journey, here you go:
The next time I travel #NCbyFerry, I will be sure to better document my journey.
Being underwater obsessed in North Carolina means also having a complete and total addiction for the magical lore and exploration of shipwrecks. North Carolina holds the brass porthole to some of the World’s best diving and marine life habitat areas. Our mysterious “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is a proud heritage with a rich history that we hear ghost stories about in our youth and many of us venture out and explore as we get older. As an eastern North Carolina youngster, I recall many tales of such wrecks including stories from my favorite folklore novelist, Charles Harry Whedbee. Shipwrecks, as an adult bring an entire new meaning, especially as a diver. To see them up-close and touch and feel them there at the bottom of the ocean, it brings up an entire new reverence for protecting and preserving the historical significance, but it also makes me realize how vital they are to our marine life habitat.
Right off our coast in North Carolina, World War II left behind a catalog of wrecks that biologists find provide a beneficial hard structure habitat which is crucial since most of these portions of the ocean are dominated by sandy bottoms. The hard structure that shipwrecks provide offer a sanctuary for hundreds of species and provides a much needed substrate for other marine species that would otherwise not exist in these sandy bottoms. When I dive wrecks, I find that some of the most fascinating marine animals are attracted to them, including my favorite – sharks!
Since shipwrecks are so crucial to North Carolina for marine habitat and our local tourism economy, I am very excited about the new shipwreck, a 180’ former Menhaden boat that has been announced to become a new underwater reef in honor of our former North Carolina Reef Coordinator, James J. Francesconi. The plan is to sink the wreck in approximately 60-70 feet of water near the wreck of the USS Indra, which is about 12 miles past the Beaufort Inlet.
James J. Francesconi started working at the NC Division of Marine Fisheries in 1987. In 2000 he became the Reef Program Coordinator where he served for 14 years before losing his battle with leukemia on July 18, 2014. This wreck reef project will memorialize and honor his contributions to the NC Reef Program, including his efforts resulted in hundreds of improvements to artificial reefs in North Carolina spanning from the northern Outer Banks to Long Bay, including the creation of the New River Reef off the coast of Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune, the Jim Knight Reef close to Oak Island, the Bob Black Reef located near Frying Pan Tower, and the sinking of the USCG SPAR, the Titan Tug, the Captain Greg Mickey, the Pawtucket Tug, Capt. Charlie, as well as the USCG Falcon aircraft.
Many divers are familiar with these sites and now have the opportunity, not only to contribute to a new dive site and help create marine life habitat, but also to memorialize the man who helped make some of their favorite dive sites happen. The process of creating this underwater memorial has been possible recently due to the continued efforts of the interim Reef Coordinator, Gregg Bodnar, Tim Mullane of American Marine Group, and a local group of fundraising and reef activists including our local dive community. However, creating this underwater memorial is a large financial undertaking and the JJF Reef Project is still seeking donors.
A significant portion of the memorial funds have been raised through the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles license plate program that began in 2005. North Carolina divers who have purchased license plates with the red and white “diver-down flag” have raised around $70,000.00 and those funds are earmarked for the development of North Carolina’s offshore artificial reefs. If you would like to be a part of the JJF Reef Project and thus support marine habitat, fisheries, and tourism, you can visit http://www.GoFundMe.com/JJF-Reef-Project and follow the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JJFReefProject.
The fundraising group is headed up by Bobby Purifoy of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City, Debby Boyce of Discovery Diving in Beaufort, and Carteret County diver Steve Broadhurst. They have set up accounts for donations with the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association as well as the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
You can also donate by entering a raffle at Olympus Dive Center. The raffle is for a dive charter with Olympus and chances are you will be able to visit one of the awesome wrecks mentioned here in this article. All proceeds from the raffle will benefit the JJF Reef Project. Please visit http://www.olympusdiving.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/olympusdivecenter for more information.
For more information about the North Carolina Reef Program, please contact Gregg Bodnar, interim North Carolina Reef Coordinator at Gregg.firstname.lastname@example.org and (252) 808-8053.
Blue Skies and Calm Seas to you all.
The wreck of the Caribsea has to be one of my favorite places to dive mostly due to the large community of sand tiger sharks. These magnificent creatures don’t mind sharing their home with a few divers and I adore spending time with them.
Sand tiger sharks will occasionally come to the surface and gulp air. I’ve mostly witnessed this while volunteering at the Pine Knoll Shores aquarium and it’s pretty cool. As it turns out, they store air in their stomachs and this plays a role in how they can float nearly motionless in the water while staying fairly close to the bottom. Divers would call this good buoyancy and others might just say it is a good trait since they appear to be very lazy. It might also be a pretty sneaky way to wait for prey.
The sand tiger shark is listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Specifies and is also a candidate species for the U.S. Endangered Species list. This is due to a couple of reasons, in some parts of the world, these sharks are in serious decline due to over-fishing, the shark fin industry, and commercial fishing methods, and also they have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all sharks (according to http://www.auduboninstitute.org), but here in North Carolina we have what seems to be a really strong population that is thriving.
Here is a short video of my dive this past SharkySunday:
Want to learn more about these super rad dudes in grey? I encourage you to take the PADI Project AWARE Shark Conservation class at Olympus Dive Center and then book a charter for some shark diving or head on out to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close and personal (from behind the glass) view.
I truly believe that you get what you give. In the case of marine debris, and the fight to educate, prevent, and remove, I find that these good deeds always bring good karma in the form of a day full of nice ridable waves for surfing, really great dive conditions on the day you book a full-day charter, or ocean-floor-ground-scores.
Almost always do I find a special gift from the ocean during my long beach-sweep walks. Some say, leave only footprints, and take only memories, which is great in most cases. I like to keep some treasures from the sea (none with critters, of course) and use them as ways to teach others about the sea.
Last week, I found is sweet ocean floor ground score:
This, my friends, is a horse conch. Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteu) also called the Florida Horse Conch is the state shell of Florida and is the largest snail to be found in American waters. They can sometimes reach a length of up to two feet.
This one was found on a free-dive adventure off Bear Island, NC.
Happy Shell Hunting (and beach sweeping)!
Blue Skies and Calm Seas,
A super rad opportunity came my way this past weekend. I hopped on a small skiff with a boat packed to the gills with friends and headed over to Bear Island (NC) for a surfari. Loaded with five people and 7 surfboards, we made our way around some creeks and the ICW to the south east end in order to catch the inlet swell that morning. Bright and early, we ventured. We were joined by another adventurous soul via kayak later that morning and had the entire island to ourselves for the better part of the morning.
I, of course, had several hours dedicated to combing the beach for debris and found a disturbing amount of balloons and random shoes amongst other items such as plastic bottle caps, water bottles, and many micro-plastic pieces in the rack line (showing where the high tide line is and in some cases you will see it marked with a line of sargassum).
It was by far one of the best Sunday Fundays I have had in awhile and mostly due to the great comradery, being able to serve mother nature, getting a little surf session, doing some free diving, seeing some really cool marine creatures, scored several whole sand dollars and a beautiful conch (good ocean karma), and of course getting salty.
Blue Skies and Calm Seas,