Fun in the sun threatens wildlife

Every Spring Break the coast is flooded with beach-goers and local business is booming. However, beneath the profitable beat-banging and bottle-popping festivities are several layers of garbage pummeled into the sand.

The daily remains left behind include beer cans, liquor bottles, cigarettes, sandals and countless other random items that cause damage to the beaches and marine life. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that plastic debris adversely affects at least 267 species globally, including 86 percent of sea turtles, 44 percent of seabirds and 43 percent of marine mammals. 

The most common threats to wildlife include both physical hazards from ingestion and entanglement, and toxicological threats from ingestion of contaminants attached to and trapped within plastic particles, according to the EPA. 

Locally, 26 tons of garbage was collected on Corpus Christi beaches in the aftermath of Spring Break 2018. Based on a number of studies, including those conducted by EPA, consumer waste has the potential to absorb chemicals of concern from the environment, and serve as a potential global transport mechanism for contaminants of concern into the food chain and potentially to humans who eat seafood. 

Not only does littering take a toll on marine life, but it affects our species as well. This raises the question if visitors can enjoy their Spring Break party without being part of the ecological problem. 

Seaside cities such as Corpus Christi use beach cleaning machines to combat the problem, but the city is limited by jurisdiction. 

“The city is only allowed to operate on eight miles of beach and the rest belongs to either the county or the state,” said Beach Operations Supervisor Warren Monyelle.  “We do our part in keeping the beaches clean seven days a week starting at 6 a.m., but what happens beyond the eight miles is out of our control.” 

The Corpus Christi Parks & Recreation Department not only sifts through the sand with manually operated vehicles, but also has over 250 trash cans placed along their zone. Personnel empty the trash cans every day. 

“We have tons of signs posted for visitors to spot and enforcement officers to educate the public,” Monyelle said. 

Code enforcement officers are responsible for issuing citations to those violating city ordinances such as littering, but, according to Monyelle, they resolve the problem by informing visitors of the ordinance while handing them a trash bag to collect their waste. 

As the department continues with its strategy, the coast outside the eight-mile realm is dependent on Nueces County and the state. With a lack of patrol and not a trash can in sight, it is up to the community to find a solution. 

“I’ve lived in Corpus most my life and I see the beach get trashed every spring,” said island resident Justin Jarzombek. “If I camp out with friends, I try to take initiative and clean up the area regardless if it was our mess or not. I also like to attend beach clean-ups once the party crowd clears up; it feels good to be involved with fellow locals.” 

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