Trash Talking Turtles – A Creative Approach to the Marine Debris Problem

The negative effects of marine debris on sea turtles have been well documented all over the world. One approach to solving the marine debris problem is through public education. Beach cleanups increase public awareness of the magnitude and impacts of marine debris. This program incorporates the creative use of trash and other common materials to develop a symbol for delivering the conservation message – a Trash Talking Turtle.

Working with local children, the Aquarium's Stranding Response Program has inspired a growing campaign to increase public awareness by incorporating trash items collected during cleanups, specifically balloons, into sea turtle sculptures created by children. These "trash turtle" sculptures have been displayed in coastal areas throughout the state along with educational information on the hazards posed by marine debris. The expected outcome of this program is twofold: it provides a visual way to increase awareness of the hazards posed by balloons and other marine debris to wildlife and it gives children a creative way to learn about the marine debris problem and a feeling of ownership in solving it.

Trash Talking Turtles not only educates hundreds of people about the dangers of marine debris, but the turtles can also influence further action by other individuals and groups. State parks, national wildlife refuges, schools, and businesses in Virginia display Trash Talking Turtles, but the turtles, and their message, are migrating to other parts of the country and the world.

If you or your group would like to create the next Trash Talking Turtle, visit Trash Talking Turtle to learn how. Have fun and spread the word!

Monitoring Marine Debris in Virginia's Coastal Zone

The Aquarium is partnering with Clean Virginia Waterways, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a two-year grant-funded project to collect data on the quantities and types of marine debris found in Virginia's coastal zone. Utilizing NOAA's Marine Debris Shoreline Survey protocol, project partners will conduct monthly surveys on four beaches along the Virginia coast. Two sites will be located on the eastern shore and two sites will be located in Virginia Beach.

The objectives of this project are to initiate a beach monitoring program, recruit and train volunteer monitors, collect 18 months of data (to include two hurricane seasons, summer/fall 2014 and 2015), analyze the data, and develop a plan to continue beach monitoring after the grant period. In addition, we will develop and strengthen partnerships with other pollution-prevention nonprofits, ocean advocacy organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. The data generated from the project will serve as a baseline against which Virginia can evaluate the effectiveness of a Marine Debris Management plan that is currently being developed with Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program funding.