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Foundation invites locals to take part in new Adopt A Beach program

By Staff | Apr 16, 2021

MAALAEA — Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), a leader in marine debris research since 2013, last week announced a new program designed to involve the public in keeping Maui’s coastlines clean and debris-free.

The Adopt A Beach program, set to launch on Earth Day, April 22, will augment a pilot program initiated in 2015 that encouraged volunteer community scientists to monitor and remove debris as part of PWF’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program (CMDMP), resulting in over 100,000 debris items removed and documented to date.

The new program offers a more structured approach for committed community scientists by providing opportunities for individuals to “adopt” a stretch of shoreline that they will clean and record the amount and type of marine debris found at the same time each month for a year. This will foster a sense of ownership over their selected area and allow PWF to continue amassing a more robust marine debris database.

By increasing the number of beaches monitored regularly and providing consistency with program participants, the information collected will reinforce PWF’s current marine debris research and allow future educational programs and advocacy measures to evolve with reliable and up-to-date data.

“This program was initially inspired because of the multiple inquiries from people on Maui who were looking to give back, particularly over the last year,” explained PWF Conservation Coordinator Shelby Serra. “Since we didn’t have anything currently set in stone for the local community, we devised this program so people who live here can become stewards of their own backyard while contributing to valuable data on marine debris.”

The Adopt A Beach program’s success depends largely on the level of engagement of program participants who will be monitoring the same stretch of beach each month, thereby illuminating specific debris trends (i.e., fishing gear, cigarette butts, disposable foodware, etc.) and providing a much more in-depth evaluation than sporadic group or individual beach cleanups.

“If we receive data from the same beach on the same day of the month, it will increase the accuracy of trends analyzed via our database,” Serra continued. “For example, is debris increasing or decreasing on a particular beach, why and what type? What is happening that is causing these shifts, and how can we mitigate?”

The Adopt a Beach program will target program participants through a full-scale volunteer recruitment strategy. Ideally, with 70 participants, PWF could secure marine debris data collection forms from 70 cleanups monthly along 20 beach sites, with the goal to collect 364 data forms annually. Each committed program participant will receive a reusable nylon collection bag, reusable gloves, Sharpies and a laminated data sheet that can be erased and reused to document each month’s debris take.

Program participants will also be evaluated to see how their behaviors, attitudes and knowledge surrounding marine debris change over the course of the project, hopefully resulting in an increased scope of marine debris knowledge among at least 75 percent.

Ultimately, if successful, PWF plans to expand this program to positively impact additional beaches throughout the Hawaiian Islands — and beyond.

For information, or to sign up, visit PacificWhale.org/adopt-a-beach.