By Angela Higginbotham

A joint effort between the St. Johns County Audubon Society and the North Florida Coastal Caretakers brought together a group of seven dedicated volunteers in mid-September to help in the Ocean Conservancy’s 31st International Coastal Cleanup event. The coastal cleanup is the world’s largest single day volunteer effort to remove trash from local waterways, beaches, lakes, and rivers. Adam Morley from the North Florida Coastal Caretakers was an organizer for the event.

The group removed 150 pounds of trash from a half mile stretch of the St. Augustine South shoreline of the Intracoastal Waterway. Volunteers utilized the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app to document the recovered trash. The app shares this data with others via the world’s largest database on marine debris. Volunteers for this worthy cause are a critical element to the global movement of turning the tide on marine litter. The volunteers also play a crucial role in helping advance research and reach potential policy solutions on marine litter.

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Eleven-year-old Blair Clark spent the day helping with the litter cleanup. His father, Richard Clark, and brother, Grey Clark, also lent a helping hand. The young Blair Clark is an active member of the Audubon Society and he passionately cares about wildlife and the environment.

“My favorite part of the day was finding an old canoe stuck in the mud on the bank. We used a winch and got it in the boat, and also a lot of other everyday trash. Cleaning up the water is a nice thing to do. I want to help out, and we can make it better if we just try,” Blair Clark said.

The volunteers spent three hours on a pontoon boat named the Litter Gitter. Three hours was not long enough for some; they wanted to stay and remove more trash.

“A tree was tangled up with fishing line. We found an old basketball and water jugs. We filled up the boat with trash,” Grey Clark said.

The Audubon Society and The Ocean Conservancy confirm that every year an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flows into the ocean. Litter is incredibly harmful to the marine environment and also to the wildlife. Plastic debris has been documented as being harmful to nearly 700 wildlife species. Without global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish by 2025. This would lead to significant environmental, economic and health issues. At least 80 percent of plastic found in the ocean originates from land based sources.

By participating in volunteer cleanup events and remaining conscious of how waste is recycled or discarded, we can all play a major role in keeping our waterways, ocean, lakes and rivers clean. The Ocean Conservancy is working with the public to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we can create science based solutions for a healthy ocean, wildlife and communities that depend on it. Visit for more information.

Photo courtesy Jean Rolke

Richard Clark, with sons Blair and Grey helped St. Johns County Audubon President Jean Rolke and other Audubon members on the Litter Gitter

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