October 2017: Great Bay Cleanup

Great Bay Cleanup 2017

Cleanup volunteers at the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newington, NH. (Photo by Emily Lord)

Continuing a Partnership

In 2016, you may remember our Great Bay Debris Mapping and Spring Cleanup and our Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge fall cleanups with the Great Bay Gunners and volunteers. After a successful year, and knowing there would unfortunately be more trash arriving with each tide, we decided to continue partnering with The Stewardship Network: New England, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation for our second annual NH Coastal Cleanup at the refuge. 

With help from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, this past weekend, over 50 community volunteers and students from the University of New Hampshire cleaned roughly one mile of coastline unaccessible by the public and removed 378 pounds of debris! The cove unfortunately accumulates large debris (buoys, broken picnic tables, pieces of docks, boats, tires), small debris (pieces of foam, plastic, rubber), and everything in between (plastic bottles, glass bottles, clothing, shoes, toys)! 

Collecting Debris and Data


Data card from the Ocean Conservancy. 

During the cleanup volunteers not only collected debris, but recorded each item that was picked up on data cards provided by The Ocean Conservancy to be included in the International Coastal Clean Up event. The Ocean Conservancy uses data collected from around the world to publish reports and influence international and regional policies to control pollution. Plus, it gives us all great insight to the ever increasing issue of marine debris. 

Walking the coast looking for debris. (Photo by Emily Lord)

Debris often gets tangled in seaweed along the coast. (Photo by Emily Lord)

Volunteers from UNH and Best Buddies volunteering their time to keep our coasts clean. (Photo by Emily Lord)

Final wrap up, tallying the data and weighing the debris. (Photo by Emily Lord)

Jelly fish?  One of 21 balloons found during the cleanup. 

What did we pick up? 

Within one mile, volunteers collected 378 pounds of debris from the coast of the Great Bay Estuary. Initially when we made it down to the coast, we could not see the large items we found last year. The large barrels, boat parts, picnic tables, and pick up truck beds were no where. A great problem to have – especially if it means those large items are not collecting on the coast as fast as we previously thought. Unfortunately, large debris is only part of the problem – and ironically a small part. 


A majority of the items collected by volunteers were medium to small items. Things like plastic bottles (97), pieces of rope (1m or greater) (102), balloons (21), plastic bottle caps (160), and most alarmingly pieces of foam (806), glass (225), and plastic (915). It is these items that our wildlife can ingest causing more harm to the environment. 

What can we do?

Cleanups are a great way to remove debris that is already in the environment. In my opinion it is one of the most gratifying ways to make a difference. And to make a difference today. You do not need to wait for a report, or results to be analyzed. Any amount picked up is making a positive difference! 

Thank you to everyone who participated (this year and previous years), and to those who take small steps to change their single use plastic habits. It takes a village, and we have a great one working on this issue in New Hampshire. Let’s keep up the good work!! 

PREP is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, a joint program between local, state and federal agencies established under the Clean Water Act with the goal of protecting and enhancing nationally significant estuarine resources. PREP is supported in part by an EPA matching grant and is housed within the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.