Blue Ocean Society offers new beach cleanup guidelines – News – seacoastonline.com

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HAMPTON — The COVID-19 pandemic broke a string of more than 16 years of monthly beach cleanups organized by Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation. Recently, cleanups have resumed with new safety guidelines and the availability of an app for collecting and reporting data.

Since 2001, the Portsmouth-based non-profit Blue Ocean Society has organized beach cleanups with the help of community volunteers. The organization conducts more than 200 cleanups and removes thousands of pounds of litter each year. In 2019, volunteers picked up more than 6,000 pounds (over 108,000 pieces) of litter just in New Hampshire. Cleanup programs here and across the country came to a halt in March, when many local beaches closed. In the following weeks, staff worked with other cleanup organizations across the country to research and write up new beach cleanup guidelines so that volunteers can conduct cleanups safely.

A key part of the society’s cleanups is data collection. Picking up litter is crucial, but it is also important to keep track of what is collected so that the society and other organizations can educate people about marine pollution and work towards solutions. Top items found during the society’s 2019 cleanups include plastic and polystyrene pieces, wrappers, plastic bottle caps and foam packaging material. Litter associated with single-use plastic items and PPE are expected to increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the society is interested in tracking these items in particular.

The society is encouraging volunteers to conduct cleanups as individuals and household groups after viewing their guidelines, which are online at www.blueoceansociety.org. The guidelines also include instructions for collecting and reporting data using the free Marine Debris Tracker app. Contributions from community scientists are crucial to removing litter from the beach before it impacts wildlife and people, and helping the Society understand and track litter along our coastline.

Marine Debris Tracker is an open-data citizen-science tool that was developed out of a joint partnership of the NOAA Marine Debris Division and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), located within the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia. Blue Ocean Society staff worked with Marine Debris Tracker personnel to incorporate the society’s beach cleanup data card into the app. Users can select the Blue Ocean Society’s list when they open the app, so that the litter they track is relevant locally and comparable to data collected by other volunteers in this region. More than 8,000 items have been reported using Blue Ocean Society’s list so far. The app can be downloaded for free on the App Store or Google Play.

Blue Ocean Society is not yet hosting public cleanups, but is happy to answer questions or provide a virtual orientation to cleanup hosts. The organization hopes to resume private cleanups with small groups soon.

For more information or to host a cleanup, call 603-431-0260 or visit www.blueoceansociety.org.



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