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Beach litter harms marine life

 

It’s a beautiful, calm, clear summer morning in Miami. Overhead, as the sun rises, the sky glows pink, and fluffy white clouds dot the horizon. It is a perfect day to take advantage of living here, to go for an early morning ocean or bay swim.

Upon arrival at the beach, however, I am filled with disgust. Beer bottles, plastic and paper food wrappers, a diaper (not unused), soda cans and some things that I don’t even want to mention are strewn across the sand.

Greater Miami has a serious litter problem, and it is shameful. When I go to beaches in California, Maine, Massachusetts — and even New Jersey — there is hardly any trash on the beach in the mornings.

Do Miamians and tourists not appreciate our beaches and ocean?

Marine debris, as we scientists call it, harms birds and marine life, strangling necks and blocking intestines. Plastics dumped on the beach and along roadways end up in the ocean introducing long-lived chemicals and potential agents of destruction into the ecosystem.

It is disgusting and destroys the quality of our coasts and oceans, which drew us here in the first place.

Today, several issues plague our oceans and coasts, including excessive nutrient runoff, aging sewage infrastructure, disappearing mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds, overfishing, invasive species and climate change.

Compared to these problems, beach litter should be an easy one to solve. Littering is illegal, but there is no enforcement whatsoever. I understand that human resources are tight, but imagine the revenue that could be raised if just a portion of the offending individuals were fined. And it would send a message: Do not dump your trash on the road or beach, or in the water.

Please, Miami-Dade, do something to combat this insidious and destructive problem. Invest in litter enforcement and education. Stop the uninformed and uneducated from ruining our beaches.

Ellen Prager, Miami

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