SAN NICOLAS ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) – The U.S. Navy conducted an annual coastal cleanup on the remote beaches of San Nicolas Island (SNI), the most isolated of the California Channel Islands, located sixty-five miles offshore, and South of Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu.
The cleanup team consisted of nearly fifty volunteer Navy Sailors and civilians assigned to NBVC and Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, who removed over two-thousand pounds of trash and debris on three SNI beaches.
On beaches that host the endangered Pacific Coast Snowy Plover and usually covered with Northern elephant seals in the winter, it is now seasonally vacated and flanked with steep dramatic dunes and a fine sea mist.
“Here’s what the Navy found on these remote beaches,” said Gunners Mate 2nd Class Dylan Bernardi.
Bernardi reads a list of items found on the beach, to include WWII artifacts, clothes, commercial fishing gear (nets, buoys, traps, hooks), boat accessories (wood, ladders, anchors), bottles, pieces of plastics, tires, barrels, treated wood, toys, and even a shopping cart.
“Look where we are,” said Bill Hoyer, natural resource manager, NBVC. “If the Navy can collect an average of four-thousand pounds of trash (2 beach cleanups annually) on California’s most remote island, it tells us there is too much trash in the ocean.”
According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, worldwide, hundreds of marine species have been negatively impacted by marine debris, which can harm or kill an animal when it is ingested, or they become entangled and can threaten the habitats they depend on. Marine debris can also interfere with navigation safety and potentially pose a threat to human health.
“We have removed a large number of micro plastic sources,” said Cdr. Keith “Fudge” Buckingham, OIC, SNI. “Things like fishing nets, clothes, and plastic bottles break down when exposed to water and sun, creating harmful micro plastics that are ingested by the local marine life.”
In 2017, a United Nations resolution discussed the dangers of microplastics and the need for regulations to reduce this hazard in oceans, and to human health.
“The Navy can continue to demonstrate that the military mission and environmental stewardship can be met in tandem,” said Capt. Robert “Barr” Kimnach III, commanding officer, NBVC. “NBVC has a long tradition of engagement programs that foster community service and protects the environment while also increasing public awareness and understanding of America’s Navy.”
The Navy transferred control of San Nicolas Island to NBVC Oct. 1, 2004.
NBVC is home to Point Mugu, Port Hueneme, San Nicolas Island, the Pacific Coast Seabees, the West coast Hawkeyes, 3 warfare centers, and 80 tenants. It is the largest employer in Ventura County and actively protects California’s largest coastal wetlands through its award-winning environmental programs.