Sandy Point beach sweep will incorporate new research app

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on August 26, 2016
Volunteers collect marine debris on Sandy Point in Bay St. George in this file photo.
Star file photo

The latest effort to remove garbage and marine debris from Sandy Point will be more high-tech than ever before.

Since 2013, the Nature Conservancy of Canada has organized a beach sweep of the island located in St. George’s Bay.

In that time, staff and volunteers have removed more than 3,000 pounds of plastics, nets, ropes and tires from the important habitat for migratory birds.

The sandy beach is a summer home to the tiny piping plover. It is also a year-round home to at least a couple of nesting osprey, according to conservation assistant Kathy Unger.

On Saturday, Unger and another Nature Conservancy of Canada staff member will be joined by19 volunteers who will take a boat over to Sandy Point and clean it up. Part of the work will be to use the new Marine Debris Tracker smartphone application to log the garbage collected.

“It’s new to us and first time we’ll be using it with volunteers,” said Unger.

The app is linked to a global positioning system so it can automatically record where and when items have been collected as the app users enter the type of material that has been picked up.

“We’re going to pair off with one person recording on the application and the other person calling out what they pick up,” explained Unger.

She expects a huge amount Of information to be uploaded to the database, which is used by marine researchers in Newfoundland and Labrador and around the world.

“This could help us figure out what kind of debris is washing up year after year on Sandy Point beach and where that debris is coming from,” she said.

The app is free to anyone to download and use.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada owns some 70 acres of property scattered across the island of Sandy Point. Unger is excited to know that the database for debris washing up on Sandy Point’s shores will grow with every annual cleanup.

“To us, it’s important to keep Sandy Point healthy and free of debris, so wildlife doesn’t become entangled or ingest dangerous materials,” said Unger.

Saturday’s cleanup, which will start from the government wharf in St. George’s, will run from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Twitter: @WS_GaryKean

Visit The Nature Conservancy of Canada

Sandy Point

• A 2,471-acre (1,000-hectare), uninhabited island in St. Georges Bay, on the southwest coast of Newfoundland

• Situated 35 kilometres south of Stephenville

• The sandy beaches and dunes are important nesting habitats for numerous bird species at risk

• The Nature Conservancy of Canada is currently protecting nine properties here for a total of almost 70 acres (28 hectares)

Conservation values

Sanctuary for more than 100 species of shorebirds and waterfowl, including the endangered piping plover;Home to semipalmated plovers, both Arctic and common terns and the willets;Supports some of the highest numbers of migrating shorebirds ever recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador;Features a rare and unusual habitat, including the largest Spartina salt marsh and one of the largest eel-grass beds in the provinceHome to 11 rare plant species including seabeach sedge, saltmarsh rush, seaside lavender and saltwater cordgrass.

Source: The Nature Conservancy of Canada