Anthropogenic debris, particularly plastic, has become a significant threat for marine species with the increased use of plastics over the years. Marine birds and sea turtles, mostly green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles, are especially vulnerable to mistaking plastic debris for food and ingesting it. There has been a rise in the incidence of turtles having plastic fragments in their GI tracts; even small amounts of plastic may have major long-term health and reproductive effects. On the nesting beaches, both adults and hatchlings may become entangled in debris or have trouble navigating around beach debris during their crawl to the sea. Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (St. Croix, USVI) is an important nesting beach for leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles. There is a large amount of marine debris found along the southern shore of St. Croix near Sandy Point. To quantify the amount of anthropogenic debris washed ashore, a trash survey was conducted on the south shore of the refuge every Monday between 29 June and 3 August 2015. Trash was collected along two 400-m transects and then later categorized. In addition, since there has been an increase in Sargassum fluitans along beaches in the Caribbean (starting in 2011), the width of the sargassum along the transects was measured at the beginning, middle and end of the survey. We found that there has been mostly a slight decrease in the amount of debris and an increase of sargassum washed up on shore over the study period. Our study has documented the rate of trash and sargassum washing ashore at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge and provides information on some potential obstacles hatchlings may face on their path to the sea.


Environmental Monitoring | Marine Biology


Kelly Stewart

Lab site

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA SWFSC)

Funding Acknowledgement

This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and is made possible with contributions from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1340110, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevron Corporation, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and from the host research center. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely those of the authors. The STAR Program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in STEM Education on behalf of the California State University system.



URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/star/332


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