BLUE HILL — Last week, 68 middle schoolers from the Blue Hill Consolidated School participated in the 30th annual International Coastal Cleanup, the world’s largest single-day volunteer effort to clean up beaches, lakes and rivers. Students hunted down plastic items large and small and any other debris littering the shores and recorded what they found. They were assisted by staff from the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI).
In its ongoing commitment to act locally on behalf of a global crisis in the planet’s oceans, MERI has been monitoring the health of Blue Hill Bay for over a decade and most recently added Penobscot Bay sites. Climate change and ocean pollution are affecting the world’s oceans and marine life habitats everywhere, and this season the focus is on microplastic pollution.
“Plastic pollution can take many forms – from bottles and bags to lobster buoys to frayed nylon fishing rope,” MERI’s Courtney Newman said. “Some of the plastic will be extremely tiny and hard to spot, but this is as harmful to marine life as shredded plastic bags and just as important to remove from our beaches.”
Last year, more than 500,000 people globally picked up 16 million pounds of trash along 13,000 miles of coastline. In Maine, volunteers found 10,484 pounds of trash in 2014.