Page 53


By Dan Dickison

Messing About in Boats Can Be Environmentally Friendly— or It Can Be a Disaster Carolina Department of Natural n mid-June, an exhausted Resources. Citing the incident with pygmy whale and her calf the pygmy whales, she added, “All washed ashore on Sullivan’s of this plastic is really dangerous to Island, just north of Charleston marine life.” Harbor. Despite the efforts of Not wasting a minute, Wenner locals to push the animals back called a few friends to assist with into deep water, both mother the effort. In a short time, she and calf were beyond assistance was joined by Capt. Alex Toline and ultimately had to be euthaof the Charleston Explorer and nized. Though tragic, this little Charleston’s Waterkeeper Cyrus news item barely registered on Buffum. They both brought their the Richter scale of public attenMorris Island on July 4. Photo by Elizabeth Wenner. boats to ferry the garbage back to tion. But among those who share the mainland, and Buffum, whose a concern for the deteriorating organization is dedicated to monistate of our aquatic environment, toring and enhancing the area’s it resonated as a modern-day water quality, brought along his morality play. Here’s why this video camera to document the situnfortunate incident should uation. (You can see his video matter to sailors. online at www.charlestonwaterIt turns out that the cause of death for the mother whale was Wenner, Toline, Buffum and a a large black plastic garbage bag few other dedicated souls removed that was lodged in her stomach. over 1,000 pounds of trash from the That bag made the cetacean beach at Morris Island that day. In unable to eat. The calf, which Morris Island after July 4. Photo by Elizabeth Wenner. the resulting video, Buffum’s narwildlife biologists say was still rative makes an important point. He observes that it took an nursing, was doomed to share its mother’s fate—starvation. intense amount of effort from a handful of people to proSuch tragedies happen more often than we’re aware, but tect that beach and the surrounding waters from the damwhen a spokesperson for NOAA’s National Oceanographic age that refuse could potentially have caused. But it really Service pronounced that this bag was most likely discarded wouldn’t have taken much effort at all, he states, if the from a boat, the incident became an issue for the boating folks who had discarded those items simply had picked community at large. them up themselves. Those of us who sail and otherwise go about on boats in As boaters, we share an important responsibility to the ocean and all of its tributaries enjoy an amazing respect the environment we use for our pastime and to resource—one that we too often take for granted. In ensure that it is properly cared for. Most sailors are aware of Charleston, the recent July 4 holiday bore witness to that. this and act accordingly. But incidents like the one at Morris Morris Island, a popular destination that flanks the entrance Island are teaching us that we may have to do more. If we to the harbor, became littered with refuse after a flotilla of truly want to preserve the marine environment, it’s likely patriotic revelers left cans, bottles, towels, beach chairs, cigwe’ll have to shoulder the load for those who don’t underarette butts, food wrappers, food and much more up and stand what’s at stake, or don’t care. If this means traveling down the beach that Saturday. with a supply of trash bags so we can cart away refuse that Dr. Elizabeth Wenner, a Charleston-based marine scienothers leave behind, so be it. tist and sailor who had anchored nearby for the holiday, But even when we’re not discarding trash, we’re having was a witness to all of this. She awoke the following mornan impact on the sensitive marine environment. A few ing to find garbage strewn everywhere along the ordinarily weeks before the Morris Island clean-up, Buffum invited pristine beach. She tried to collect the refuse, and realized anyone interested to come and watch as he and representaright away that more help was needed to corral the trash tives from e-Paint and applied e-Paint’s before the next high tide. non-toxic, environmentally friendly bottom paint to the hull “I knew this stuff would be taken out to sea if we didn’t of the Lady C, the Charleston Waterkeeper patrol boat. get it cleaned up,” said Warner, who works with the South


News & Views for Southern Sailors

SOUTHWINDS September 2009


Southwinds September 2009

Southwinds September 2009