Trash on Broad Key

Seagrass Bed

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are is trash on some of the world’s remotest islands. In fact, I have posted about these islands before, and the interesting research that is being done on them, but knowing that trash is inundating these remote places, and seeing these places is entirely different.

I just completed a weeklong field study course on Broad Key. This little mangrove island sits just outside of Biscayne National Park, between the Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The island is a research station for the University of Miami, and has only one permanent resident, but it’s location, and ecology makes it a perfect trash trap. Twice a day water washes in and out of the narrow shallow straits that border the island, carrying either trash from the Greater Caribbean or from the densely populated coastal cities.

Sargassum floats out in the “blue water”

Debris analysis was not part of our lecture series, but me, being who I am, could not help myself. As we snorkeled the shallow seagrass beds, I counted glass bottles on the bottom. As we swam through mangrove roots, I lamented at the huge number of nets and ropes tangled around the roots, and as I jumped off the boat for the very first time into “blue water” (and I mean the bluest blue water you have ever seen!), I stuffed pieces of floating plastic into my collection bag.

Part of what little free time I had was spent paddling a double kayak through the nearby mangroves, hacking out as much rope as I could, and scooping up as many bottles and jars that I found. I know I didn’t even make a dent.

I wonder if these islands act as nets, filtering out Bay trash before it reaches the ocean. Could there be a difference in distribution of types of trash between the inland and ocean side of the island?



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