Category Archives: Plastics

Local marina and tournament anglers contribute to research at CEI

Captain and mate of team Shady Lady weigh in a wahoo. When dissected at CEI's lab, this fish was found to have a ingested a piece of plastic.
Captain and mate of team Shady Lady weigh in a wahoo. When dissected at CEI’s lab, this fish was found to have a ingested a piece of plastic.

This February, the Cape Eleuthera Institute partnered with Davis Harbor Marina and the Cotton Bay Club for the inaugural Davis Harbour Wahoo Rally. The two day fishing tournament allowed Davis Harbour Marina and anglers to contribute to ongoing research at CEI, making the Wahoo Rally as scientifically valuable as it was fun for the participating teams.

This partnership, and the enthusiasm of Davis Harbour Marina and the fishing teams, highlights CEI’s commitment to including anglers in ongoing research initiatives.

CEI researchers including (from L to R) a MSc student, a CEI intern, and a PhD student assisted with the collection of tissue samples
CEI researchers including (from L to R) a MSc student, a CEI intern, and a PhD student assisted with the collection of tissue samples

 

Continue reading to learn more about the angler-driven projects that were contributed to during the Wahoo Rally.

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New citizen scientist page set up by CEI plastics researcher

Have you ever come across an animal – whether fish, bird, mammal, or even coral – that was impacted by plastic? Share your observation and details with the “Plastic Pollution: Impacts on Wildlife” project at http://www.anecdata.org/projects/view/123, a new citizen scientist page started by CEI researchers.
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Photo info: From entanglement to asphyxiation, marine debris can have severe effects on animal health. Even small pieces of plastic, such as these collected from a great shearwater (Puffinus gravis) found washed ashore, adsorb pollutants from the environment, thus acting as a vector for the bioaccumulation of pollutants in birds, fish, and marine mammals.

CEI Research Team presents at conference in Abaco

Last week, researchers from The Cape Eleuthera Institute traveled to Abaco for the 7th Biennial Abaco Science Alliance Conference (ASAC) hosted by Friends of the Environment. Over the course of two days, posters and presentations alike highlighted research findings in natural history and environmental science in The Bahamas. Drawing a diverse audience with scientists from The Bahamas to as far as Canada, local community members and high school students from Abaco, the conference provided a forum for sharing scientific knowledge on the diverse ecosystems of The Bahamas.

Dr. Owen O'Shea presenting at the conference.
Dr. Owen O’Shea presenting at the conference.

 

Dr. Owen O’Shea, Research Associate for the Shark Research and Conservation Program, gave an engaging presentation on the ongoing stingray research project at CEI and ecosystem-driven approaches to conservation. Candice Brittain, Applied Scientific Research Department Head, spoke about the recent assessment of the queen conch nursery ground in South Eleuthera. Her presentation was followed by a workshop on conservation of queen conch in The Bahamas, led by the Bahamas National Trust. Georgie Burruss, Research Assistant for the Flats Ecology and Conservation Program, presented new findings on marine debris in the Exuma Sound and plastic ingestion by pelagic sportfish. She also gave a talk on studies conducted by the Flats Program that have aided in developing the Best Handling Practices for bonefish and protection of critical bonefish habitat. Finally, Eric Schneider, graduate student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, presented research he conducted at CEI on temperature change effects on juvenile and adult schoolmaster snapper.

ASAC provided a unique opportunity for networking between the local community, students, and researchers for sharing knowledge on ecosystems across The Bahamas. Researchers from CEI look forward to attending ASAC in 2018!

The Island School Hosts an International Youth Summit with Musician Jack Johnson and 5 Gyres

Two weekends ago, The Island School hosted the SEA Change Youth Summit with musician, Jack Johnson and 5 Gyres to raise awareness about the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean and to inspire young students to be advocates for change. 34 Students gathered from Abaco, Grand Bahama, New Providence and Eleuthera as well as a school group out of New York and another student from Jamaica.

 Musician Jack Johnson plays a few songs at the UNEP Designation where he was recognized as a Goodwill Ambassador.
Musician Jack Johnson plays a few songs at the UNEP Designation where he was recognized as a Goodwill Ambassador.

As part of the kick-off for the weekend on Friday June 5th, Jack Johnson took part in a designation ceremony to become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The designation was timely as last Friday marked World Environment Day, a UN flagship event encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, celebrated in over 100 countries.

Included in the kickoff to the festivities hosted on The Island School’s campus were remarks from Chris Maxey, founder of The Cape Eleuthera Island School, Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen, founders of the 5 Gyres Institute and Celine Cousteau, film maker, environmentalist and daughter of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau and the granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau. Also in the line up was Kristal Ambrose, founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement and Minister of Education, Science and Technology, The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald.

Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.
Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.

The first day of the Summit centered around raising awareness on the issue of plastic pollution so that the students could create their own solutions based on the stories and information they’d received. In the afternoon students, facilitators, Jack Johnson and visiting UNEP representative, Naysan Sahba visited a local beach to do a clean-up lead by Kristal Ambrose. The day finished with a Junkanoo, cultural activity lead by Art teacher and Space to Create founder, Will Simmons in which Summit attendees, Island School students and Jack Johnson created original songs about plastic pollution to the Junkanoo beat provided by the visiting South Eleutheran students from Preston H. Albury High School.

The second day began with a workshop on how to reduce single-use disposable plastics in the household. Students were given tips and tools on how to make their own toothpaste and steer away from buying highly packaged products and personal care products containing plastic micro-beads. After lunch, David Stover, co-founder of Bureo Skateboards told his story of making skateboards from fish netting found in the ocean and beaches of Chile. The students then sifted through their findings from Friday’s clean-up to create a symbolic SEA Change eye sculpture out of plastics with Dianna Cohen, founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. The sculpture was then showcased at the Deep Creek Homecoming where Summit attendees enjoyed a plastic free event thanks to a donation by World Centric for all food packaging. Recover also pitched in with a donation of t-shirts for the homecoming made from recycled plastic bottles.

Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.
Students at the summit make all-natural tooth paste.

The last day of the Summit was spent teaching the students how to tell and share their own stories and to create their own solutions. Facilitators and visiting activists, scientists and artists participated in group discussions on how each student could make a change in their home, on their island and in their country. The day ended in a closing ceremony with music by local band, The Rum Runners, as well as Jack Johnson, who performed alongside local and visiting musicians and even played a tune with two Island School students.

Summit organizer, The Island School’s Brittney Maxey, was blown away by the energy coming from the young students. “This is a historical event not only for us at The Island School and the island of Eleuthera, but also for The Bahamas and other island nations as a whole. We are sending these motivated young people back out into the world equipped with the tools to make a difference in their communities. The Island School’s mission is leadership affecting change and this weekend embodied this belief not only for the students but for the island of Eleuthera. We are a small place making big change.”

Summit attendees, 5 Gyres, and Jack Johnson celebrate World Environment Day on June 5 and show off all of the beach plastic they gathered.
Summit attendees, 5 Gyres, and Jack Johnson celebrate World Environment Day on June 5 and show off all of the beach plastic they gathered.

Thank you to event supporters: Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, AML Foods, Cape Eleuthera Resort & Marina, Recover, World Centric, From the Bow Seat, Bahamas Waste Limited, Cable Bahamas, One Eleuthera, The Muggia Family and Kim & Floyd Wilson

CEI/ Island School Research Expo a big success

Spring 2015 Island School Student plays a sea turtle Jeopardy! game with Youth Action Island Summit attendees. (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)
Spring 2015 Island School Student plays a sea turtle Jeopardy! game with Youth Action Island Summit attendees. (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)

On Saturday, June 6, Spring 2015 Island School students participated in the Research Expo, their final Research Class assignment, which coincided with the Youth Action Island Summit hosted at the Island School. For the Research Expo, each group was required to focus on the “bigger picture” of conservation in their research area and present their conservation message through the use of games, trivia, slide shows, and their Research Poster.

Spring 15 Island School student shows a tour group how to measure a queen conch. Photo credit: Cam Powell
Spring 15 Island School student shows a tour group how to measure a queen conch. Photo credit: Cam Powell

 

This assignment was a great way for the students to show off all they have learned this semester, as well as to allow the students to demonstrate their abilities to speak to various audiences, such as young Bahamians, scientists, and UN delegates

The Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presents to the Youth Action Island Summit attendees
The Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presents to the Youth Action Island Summit attendees

At the end of the Research Expo, the Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presented their findings to everyone in attendance. The audience was very impressed, with one Summit attendee praising the students for doing graduate level research in high school.

Spring 2015 Island School students discuss their findings on post-release survivorship with Jack Johnson and Youth Island Action Summit attendees (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)
Spring 2015 Island School students discuss their findings on post-release survivorship with Jack Johnson and Youth Island Action Summit attendees (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)

Overall, the Research Expo was a success. The students enjoyed meeting people of various backgrounds, answering questions about their research, and demonstrating all that they have learned this semester. Their final research posters, which were displayed at the Research Expo, can be found here.

Sustainable Fisheries team represents at 2015 Conch Fest!

The CEI Sustainable Fisheries team serving up lionfish fritters
The CEI Sustainable Fisheries team serving up lionfish fritters

Last weekend, Deep Creek hosted its annual Conch Fest.  Unlike past years, Conch Fest was new and improved, focused on keeping Deep Creek green, clean, and pristine. Instead of using plastic containers to hand out food, all of the booths used recyclable materials. Single use plastics have become an issue for the oceans, as they are being consumed by and entangling marine organisms. This initiative in Deep Creek will hopefully spread to other settlements as well as other islands to reduce the plastics ending up in the oceans.

All ages were trying and loving lionfish fritters.
All ages were trying and loving lionfish fritters.

The Sustainable Fisheries Team of The Cape Eleuthera Institute set up their own booth at Conch Fest among the many others. While the live lionfish in the tank and the model of the aquaponics system attracted attention, the main attraction of the night was the lionfish fritters that the team handed out as samples for everyone to try. Although conch fritters are part of the traditional Bahamian cuisine, many Bahamians were both surprised and impressed by how tasty the lionfish fritters were! Most people came back for seconds and many requested a bag to take home with them.

The team also had lionfish jewelry on display and every pair or lionfish earrings were sold by the end of the night. Some people even made special orders for lionfish jewelry to be picked up at a later date.

The Minister of Education and Technology tried his first lionfish fritter and loved it!
The Minister of Education and Technology tried his first lionfish fritter and loved it!
Conch Fest became Lionfish Fest!
Conch Fest became Lionfish Fest!

Although conch fritters are a tasty treat, conch is an unsustainable fishery. Hopefully people will begin to cook lionfish fritters instead of conch fritters after tasting them at The Sustainable Fisheries booth this year.   Next year the Sustainable Fisheries Team will be back at Conch Fest handing out lionfish fritters, and spreading the word on how pretty (as jewelry) and tasty lionfish can be!

Second Deep Creek Cleanup a big success!

Last week, over 30 members of the Deep Creek community gathered to conduct a second trash clean up. Led by Brittney Maxey, Educational Programs and Youth Action Island Summit Volunteer, and Georgie Burruss, Flats Ecology and Conservation Team intern, the team tackled the back road of Deep Creek.

 The clean up team posing in front of one of the truckloads of trash collected.
The clean up team posing in front of one of the truckloads of trash collected.
Students from the Deep Creek Primary School excited about keeping the trash off the roads.
Students from the Deep Creek Primary School excited about keeping the trash off the roads.

Many of the participants were children from the Deep Creek Primary School. They worked tirelessly through the heat and mosquitos to fill two pick up truckloads of trash. The team saved all of the plastics, which will be used to make plastic art during the Plastic Youth Summit next weekend. Some pieces of trash were immediately repurposed, such as buckets and tires to be used as planters.

Deep Creek community members loading the truck with piles of trash.
Deep Creek community members loading the truck with piles of trash.

Many of the children were eager to prevent trash from ending up on the ground in the future, coming up with ideas to mitigate littering in their community.  They were thrilled to see how clean the road became, demonstrating all their hard work. Special thanks to the Cape Eleuthera Foundation in supporting the event and providing bags, gloves, and the pick up truck.

IS Students shine in SP 15 Parents’ Week presentations

Last week The Island School hosted Parents’ Week. The week included an opportunity for parents to tour our campus, view a student art exhibit, parent-teacher meetings, and a day for students to show their families the island of Eleuthera.

The head of Island School addresses all of the visitors before presentations begin.
The head of Island School addresses all of the visitors before presentations begin.

52 excited Island School students had the opportunity to present their semester long research projects to their parents, real world scientists from The Cape Eleuthera Institute, and The Island School faculty. Each research group had 10 minutes to present the culmination of their semester’s work including an introduction to their project, their hypotheses, a description of methods employed, results section, and conclusions of findings from their data. In addition, each group answered questions from curious parents and researchers about their topics.

A group shot of The Island School students, staff, CEI researchers, and visiting parents.
A group shot of The Island School students, staff, CEI researchers, and visiting parents.

The parents learned about how plastic pollution can end up in a fish’s stomach, exciting new research focused on the deep-sea, the current status of important fisheries species in South Eleuthera and new research focused on the inland pond systems in Eleuthera. Guest commented on how impressed they were with The Island School students’ level of professionalism when presenting and their ability to share in-depth knowledge on their chosen research topic.

You are what you eat… and what your dinner eats, too!

As any angler will tell you, fresh fish is the best fish (Fig. 1)! Even non-anglers would insist that grilled wahoo, dockside yellowfin sashimi, or fried dolphinfish fingers are best when fresh from the sea. Knowing your fish is wild-caught means there are no questions about the quality of the fillet, or the fish’s diet – right?

Wahoo (top) and dolphinfish (bottom) are highly sought after sportfish, and are targeted for their fighting ability and table quality meat. These species, together with tunas and billfish, drive the economically valuable Bahamian sportfish economy.
Wahoo (top) and dolphinfish (bottom) are highly sought after sportfish, and are targeted for their fighting ability and table quality meat. These species, together with tunas and billfish, drive the economically valuable Bahamian sportfish economy. Photo credit: Erik Kruthoff
Fig. 2: A sugar bag originating from the Dominican Republic. Within a few years this bag will break up into tiny microplastics, easily available for accidental consumption by marine fishes.
Fig. 2: A sugar bag originating from the Dominican Republic. Within a few years this bag will break up into tiny microplastics, easily available for accidental consumption by marine fishes.

Each year, between 8-12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans, ranging in size from large pieces of floating trash or small (< 5mm) microplastics barely visible to the naked eye (Fig. 2). Some of this debris may result in the entanglement and death of marine mammals, or can be ingested by birds, sea turtles, and fish with severe health consequences. Even more concerning is that plastic debris acts as a magnet for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs or DDT – chemicals known to disrupt hormones or have carcinogenic effects in humans and animals. Thus, identifying whether plastic debris is consumed by recreationally and commercially important fish species should be of concern to any angler or sushi-lover.

Fig. 3: Island School students remove the stomach from a dolphinfish in preparation for a stomach dissection.
Fig. 3: Island School students remove the stomach from a dolphinfish in preparation for a stomach dissection.

CEI researcher Zach Zuckerman, along with 6 Island School students, are investigating how marine debris – particularly plastic – is affecting the marine food web of The Bahamas.  Zuckerman and his team have collected over 100 dolphinfish, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna carcasses from anglers at Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina and Davis Harbour Marina, both located near CEI’s campus on South Eleuthera. The location at which each fish is captured is recorded, and the stomachs removed at CEI’s wetlab to be dissected in search of plastic debris. To identify microplastics, the team runs the contents of each fish’s stomach through a sieve, or a series of increasingly smaller screens, to separate prey and debris by size (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4: This large hair bead and piece of trash bag were discovered in a dolphinfish and wahoo (top), while these 14 small pieces of clear plastic film were discovered after sieving the stomach contents of a single yellowfin tuna.
Fig. 4: This large hair bead and piece of trash bag were discovered in a dolphinfish and wahoo (top), while these 14 small pieces of clear plastic film were discovered after sieving the stomach contents of a single yellowfin tuna.

Preliminary results indicate that 19% of wahoo, 23% of dolphinfish, and 20% of yellowfin tuna captured in Eleuthera’s waters contain plastic in their stomachs. Some of this is easily identifiable by eye such as pieces of plastic bag! Most of the debris, though, is less than 5mm in size and identifiable only through the sieving process such as the 14 small pieces of clear plastic found in a single yellowfin tuna (Fig. 4)!.

These preliminary results are quite startling; past gut content analysis of fish harvested near the Pacific Garbage Patch suggests much lower occurrences of plastic ingestion by recreational species, with only 2% of dolphinfish and no yellowfin tuna having been found with plastic in their stomachs. These researchers, though, only searched the gut by eye and did not sieve the stomach contents. Many anglers claim to have never seen plastic inside a fish, yet it would seem that most have never looked quite close enough!

Please follow this research as we increase our sample size, add new recreational species to the study, and quantify concentrations of free-floating plastic around Eleuthera by sampling the Exuma Sound with a plastic trawl (blog coming soon). Contact zachzuckerman@ceibahamas.org with questions or to support our research efforts.

 

An excerpt from Link School’s visit to CEI

Here is an excerpt of her Island School experience, by Link School student Medina Purefoy-Craig:

Sorting the plastics we collected at Cotton Bay Beach
Sorting the plastics we collected at Cotton Bay Beach

I can now safely say that I can jump into water and actually not drown. Early this morning before the sun itself was up we embarked on a “Run Swim”. We did multiple drills that would help us feel more relaxed in the water and know what to do to conserve energy. When I first arrived I had no idea how to swim. I relied heavily on every flotation device around even when I have my PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on. After the drills I was able to swim from one shore to the other by myself, even though I did swallow more salt water than needed and flipped over on my back when I meant to swim forward.

After breakfast, we had a small lesson on plastic and how much ends up in the ocean. We then proceeded to Cotton Bay Beach where we picked up plastic of the beach and did a not-so-competitive competition to find the weirdest things. We found a lot of nets,  refrigerator door, toothpaste tube (made in the US, package designed in the UK) a plate, some clothes, and a lot of unidentified objects as well. Overall it was a great way to give back to the earth and to save the fish even though I never eat any. In the end we had three full boxes and had to leave some there to grab later.

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