July 1-7 is Clean Beaches Week, an entire week to celebrate our beautiful beaches and ensure they stay clean, safe, and lovely for generations to come. Clean Beaches Week combines the spirit of Earth Day with the fun of Independence Day and pumps up the fun for an entire week. July 4 is the most popular beach day of the entire year, but it also results in the most litter on our shores. Clean Beaches Week is a way to educate beach-goers on proper beach behavior before the big day.
History of Clean Beaches Week
Started in 2003, the week has drawn enormous public support with over 150 coastal governors, mayors, and county commissions having now issued proclamations in support of the week. But this isn’t by any means a new subject.
Humans have been harming the ocean’s ecosystem for hundreds of years with plastics, toxic waste, oil spills, and much more. Land-based waste products end up in seas, oceans, and beaches. Ocean trash affects the health of wildlife, people, and local economies. The trash in the water and on the shore can be ingested by wildlife, or entangle animals with lethal consequences. Plastic also attracts and concentrates other pollutants from surrounding seawater, posing a contamination risk to those species that then eat it. Scientists are studying the impacts of that contamination on fish and shellfish as well as the possible impact it may have on human health.
Plastic has been found in 59% of seabirds such as albatross and pelicans, in 100% of sea turtle species, and more than 25% of fish sampled from seafood markets around the world.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, the Arcata Recycling Center, under the leadership of Wes Chesbro (who has since served a long career in the California State Legislature), began running beach cleanups in search of recyclable material. Since then, hundreds of other communities have followed in their footsteps with efforts like Clean Beaches Week to make up for the danger littering has brought to our planet.