First-Ever Marine Debris Cleanup Event Announced

WEST OCEAN CITY – Community members are encouraged to come out and participate in an inaugural marine debris cleanup event next month.

On Saturday, Oct. 10, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) – in partnership with Blue Water and Pure Lure Reel Fishing Gear – will host its first annual Marine Debris Plunder.

As part of the event, organizers are seeking volunteers by boat and land to help clean up marine debris. Participants will then return their “loot” to the West Ocean City marina for a chance to win recognition and trophies.

“COVID has brought a lot of craziness to town and a lot of trash, more than we’ve ever seen,” said MCBP Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Sandi Smith. “Our fear is that it could be in the bays as well. So we thought why not coordinate something after the summer season to engage the community in a feel-good event that also helps clean up the mess that people left behind. Hopefully with this cleanup we’ll be able to promote the fact that the community can make a difference.”

Smith said MCBP had originally planned to host a collection event that focused on the removal of ghost pots – or pots that have been lost or abandoned in the waterways. The event, however, has evolved into a much broader cleanup effort.

She noted that commercial crabbing is still underway in the coastal bays, and participants will receive registration packets that explain the differences between ghosts pots, which can be collected, and live pots, which cannot be touched.

“We really don’t want anyone tampering with live pots, so we’ll also have DNR working with us and they will be out on the water that day …,” she said. “It’s kind of a twofold event.”

Smith said the Marine Debris Plunder will kick off when low tide begins at 8:20 a.m., although there is no specific start time. Volunteers will collect debris from the watershed throughout the day and return to Pure Lure at the West Ocean City marina by boat or by land to weigh and dispose of trash.

“We weigh it and take your picture,” she said. “It’s just like a fishing tournament.”

Trophies and prizes will be awarded virtually to volunteers with the most debris collected, the weirdest find, the most COVID-related trash and the best event spirit, to name a few. Dressing up like a pirate is optional.

The Marine Debris Plunder will also feature social distancing and safety measures, Smith said, and volunteers will be provided masks, gloves, bags and other collection items, which will be distributed from Pure Lure before the event. Pick up times will be determined once volunteers register for the event.

“Captain Jack Sparrow will be MCing, so when you pull up by boat or by car to drop off, we’ll have a DJ there, as well as Captain Jack greeting you,” Smith said. “We’re going to make it as fun as we can without making it an event where we are all gathered around in the same space.”

Smith said the goal is to create an annual event that highlights litter issues in and around the coastal bays and encourages locals and visitors to take their “loot” with them.

“We really hope the community does come out and engage in this because it will help with our messaging next year,” she said.

For more information, or to participate, visit mdcoastalbays.org or email mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org. Registration will close on Oct. 2.

“We’re hoping this will be a really fun, family oriented event,” Smith said. “People have been wanting to get out there and organize these events, but COVID has been a problem. We really feel like this is an event that can encourage the community to participate safely and have fun.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.