CAPE RAY, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
At first glance the heaps of material that washed up on a Cape Ray beach on Sunday, Aug. 19 looked like shredded plastic. It’s actually not plastic at all, and essentially harmless.
“That’s a type of seagrass,” says Mark Lomond of the Port aux Basques chapter of Delta Waterfowl. Lomond spends a lot of time on the water.
“I was picking it up and looking at it as it all started washing ashore. It was in different stages of bleaching from the sun. Some strings were still dark, and there were even balls of it bleached white on top and brown on bottom.”
“It’s easy to take apart,” says Paul Taverner, picking up another handful.
Taverner’s cabin is across a small dirt road from the tiny beach where vast quantities of the seagrass washed up. Initially he mistook the seagrass it to be some kind of shredded plastic, as did some others on local social media platforms this past week.
Taverner patrols the sandy beach regularly to pick up garbage like beef buckets or plastic motor oil containers.
He was worried, initially, when he noticed the large clumps of plastic-like strands that had washed up onshore. He wondered if it might negatively impact shore birds or other sea life.
He was relieved to find out it was naturally-occuring sea grass.
He says for the most part the beach is left in relatively good condition by those who use it.
“I had to put a sign up one year because people would come down here and leave their garbage behind.”
He says the numbers of tourists stumbling across the beach have increased this year, thanks to the stunning mountain views and easy access. He’s even put out his own plastic lawn chairs for people to relax and admire the view, and the beach has also become increasingly popular as a spot for wedding photos.
“We had a lot of people using the beach this year.”
Cape Ray is a local service district, served by a volunteer board.
Anne Osmond, who is a board member, says she was unaware that anything abnormal had washed ashore. She does think that a garbage can needs to be placed on that beach, and will make the suggestion at the next board meeting.
Meanwhile, MHA Andrew Parsons, who is Minister for the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Environment, says when something out of the ordinary occurs communities should reach out to his department.
“It’s no different than sometimes where you get unusual scenarios like a whale washing up on the beach. The department will always work with communities to figure out solutions.”
Illegal dumping would normally fall to the community to deal with, but unexpected scenarios can present an extra challenge for areas working with limited resources.
“You have no idea what it is or where it’s from, so yes, the first thing you’ve got to do is work with the department to figure out what happened and what can be done,” says Parsons.
He says the government can help offer different solutions to communities who are facing an unexpected or unknown scenario, regardless of the size of the affected area.
As for the seagrass, most of it has been taken care of by the same wind and water that dumped it on the beach in the first place.
On Monday, Aug. 27 locals also reported the same type of seaweed had washed ashore on beaches in Grand Bay West, Isle aux Morts, Burnt Islands and in the Codroy Valley.
Mark Lomond says it’s nothing at all to worry about, though he doesn’t really know why there’s so much of it right now, but believes the large amount is a good sign.
“We get it all the time but there’s significantly more of it around this time of year.”
Notes Lomond, “Lots of seagrass equals lots of baby cod.”
Seagrass is essential for the development of juvenile fish such as Atlantic cod. To find out more about its importance to a sustainable fishery and ongoing efforts to preserve these coastal habitats, visit: https://theecologist.org/2014/nov/04/love-cod-lets-save-our-disappearing-seagrass.