New to the blog? Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series!
In this third and final post on our Plog for the Sea Challenge, we wanted to highlight how a little goes a long way!
By dedicating just 10 minutes a day for 10 days throughout the month of October, our 10 participants plogged for a total of 33.6 hours and picked up close to 77 bags of litter!
Along with the various Nova Scotian spots shown below, plogging also happened in Cape Breton, PEI, Ottawa and Vancouver. It's really impressive what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish.
Spring is still a little ways away, but as soon as that snow melts it will uncover an unsightly array of trash along our roads and on our coasts. Instead of getting discouraged, let's all get out there and plog! For some final inspiration, here is the last set of responses from our ambassadors. They were asked what surprised them the most from their experience and what advice they would have for anyone considering plogging.
Meghan returning from one of her plogging trips.
The surprise - I wish I could say that I was surprised by the amount of litter I encountered during the plogging challenge, but I was not. Unfortunately, the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality is still quite prevalent in society today. What I was surprised by was how great of an activity plogging is to do with friends! It allows you to catch up with a friend while making a positive impact on the environment.
The advice - There are so many stressors facing the ocean today. The news is populated by stories of doom and gloom of the ocean. Often times, it can be quite overwhelming to the point where the you can be left wondering if the actions of a single person can really make a difference. Plogging is proof that actions of a single person can have a huge impact! It is among the easiest things that you can do to help the ocean. That is all to say that if you are considering becoming a plogger, do it!!!!
Jocelyn with two bags of "loot" after a plogging trip.
The surprise - I was surprised by two things during my plogging. First I was surprised about the amount of garbage I found in some spots and that it wasn't being cleaned up by our city or some of the community. It was sometimes hard to stay positive about my small impact on these large amounts of garbage on road sides and in parks. But secondly I was surprised by the overwhelming support! My donors ranged from close friends to people I haven't spoken to in years and everyone I met while I was plogging had big smiles, encouraging words and even fist bumps and high fives for me. That really helped me keep up my plogivation!
The advice - Get a great pair of gloves and some tongs! They came in handy during wet weather or hard to reach places. If you can, recruit plogging pals - group plogging makes the time go faster and keeps spirits high. And treat yourself to a walk on a well maintained trail every few plogs, just to get back into the beauty of nature and remind yourself of why you're out there.
Our appreciation event at The Watch That Ends the Night.
We finished our challenge off with an appreciation event to thank all our plogging ambassadors. The Watch That Ends the Night provided delicious appetizers to our group that were happily scarfed down! We were able to offer prizes to those who logged the most plogging hours and to our top fundraisers thanks to the generous donations of Aerobics First and Patagonia Halifax. Thank you to these sponsors!
A huge thank you to all 117 people who donated to our plogger's efforts and helped raise $3,605 for ocean education!
And finally, one more thank you to our ploggers: Abbie, Alexandra, Jennifer, Jocelyn, Kaitlin, Lyn, Maddie, Meghan, Melanie, Raymond and Ruby.
If you don't know what plogging is yet and haven't read Part 1, see below or click here.
When we created the Plog for the Sea challenge, we wanted to ensure that we weren't creating more waste with our efforts. We put our sustainability thinking caps on and thought of a couples ways this could be done.
First, we provided our local ambassadors with reusable bags that they could use to pick up the waste they found. These were provided to us by the Alexander Keith's Brewery located in Halifax. Their master brewer, Stefan, is always looking for ways to make sure their used malt bags don't go to waste. He cut the bags for us, slit some handles, blew out the grain residues and delivered some perfect plogging bags to us! Thank you Stefan!
Stefan showing off the reusable malt bags! Photo curtesy of The Tare Shop who caught Stefan in action bringing some bags to the Historic Brewery Market for all shoppers to use.
If you want one, or many, of these bags - contact us!
The second thing we did to reduce our own footprint with this challenge was provide our ambassadors with gardening gloves. For safety reasons, gloves are an important aspect of plogging. Many clean-up efforts provide participants with latex gloves, and while we applaud all efforts to tidy up our environment, those latex gloves ultimately end up in the trash. Considering becoming a plogger? Go purchase a pair of cheap gloves that will last you all plogging season and beyond!
Want some other tips to begin plogging?
Here's the second set of responses from our ploggers after we asked them what surprised them the most from their experience and what advice they would have for anyone considering plogging.
Abbie's dog, Count, along for a plogging run!
The surprise - I was surprised by the amount of support I received from strangers and people I barely knew. Without trying to sound negative, I thought it would be pretty hard to reach the $200 goal. But people quickly jumped on the bandwagon and kept up with my progress which was amazing. People were so excited to financially support a local organization and even help plogging.
The advice - If you're considering becoming a plogger, don't be disheartened by the amount of litter out there! Just know that you're doing your best and you are making a difference, no matter how small it feels. And if you're not hauling in huge bags of litter... that's ok, too! Picking up cigarette butts is very time consuming for little reward... but I remember reading somewhere that one cigarette butt can immediately contaminate 7 L of water and continue releasing toxins for 10 years!
Melanie, our second West Coast ambassador, plogging in Vancouver.
The surprise - I was surprised by the number of other folks who got involved! I am so glad people joined the team to clean up for the sea and support Back to the Sea’s fundraising goal!
The advice - My advice, carry gloves with you everywhere. It’s always the times you are not Plogging when you see a huge garbage can turned over or a seagull that has just tore up a McDonalds bag. Those are the times when ploggers need to be at the ready! Now that my eyes are open to the amount of garbage on our streets and seawalls, I can’t not see it.
Jenn doing a beach plog.
The surprise - I was disheartened to see so much litter that was found litterally everywhere, but what surprised me was how much we can accomplish in such a short period of time. In ten minutes of plogging we can fill an entire bag and make for a happier and healthier environment. I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of support, encouragement, donations and messages that trickled in on the daily from people online and in person. This challenge made me realize that there is a wonderful network of caring, like-minded, passionate people that are fully on board to connect & continue to work together in helping our environment in any way we can.
The advice - I recommend investing in a durable pair of gardening gloves that will sustain all elements and that you will be able to reuse for each plogging adventure. I used one pair of gloves the entire month and they worked perfectly other than I do wish they could have been a bit more water-resistant, as some of the messes I got myself into left my hands sopping wet with who-knows-what. Speaking of which, hand sanitizer is good to have close by. Last but not least, a couple of reusable bags (email Back to the Sea to get some of Keith's used malt bags!).
My advice to future ploggers would be 1) Have the items I’ve listed above on-hand for emergency plogs, as I had many of those. 2) Talk about it- whether you make a post, record your experience, or talk to friends and family about your experiences-it will bring more awareness and recruit more ploggers! 3) Don’t be shy. If you do not have the means to dispose of the garbage you’ve collected, reach out to local businesses that have secure and covered bins. 4) Have fun with it! Get friends together, laugh off some of the outrageous finds. It can get ugly out there, and you can start to feel pretty discouraged BUT, know that you’re doing your part, and others are too!
🌎 💙 🌊
This is part 2 of a 3 part series. Read part 1 below. Stay tuned to find out more about the success of our challenge and to hear more anecdotes and advice!
First things first - what is plogging? Picking up litter while jogging!
And why is it important? Because 80% of the garbage found in our ocean is land-based. Ouf! That's quite the statistic.
But what's the happy news? Keep reading!
On October 1st, eleven ambassadors joined our Plog for the Sea challenge. Their mission was to plog for minimum 10 days for 10 minutes each time during the month of October. That's 100 minutes dedicated to helping keep the ocean trash-free. Each participant also committed to fundraising $200 for our Society.
Kick-off group plog along the Dartmouth waterfront near the Touch Tank Hut!
We were blown away by the dedication of all our ambassadors. Not only did most of them go well above 100 minutes of plogging, but our team fundraising goal of $2000 was smashed and over $3,600 was raised!
We asked our ambassadors what surprised them the most of their experience and what advice they would give to anyone considering plogging. Read their responses for some guaranteed inspiration!
Kaitlin plogging on Bluff Trail.
The surprise - When starting off the plogging challenge I expected it to be rewarding, impactful, and easy to incorporate into my daily routine. What I did not expect was how much plogging brought people together. Whether I was walking with friends, reading kind messages, or being encouraged by the community it never felt as if I was plogging alone.
The advice - Many of us strive to make a positive impact in our community but all too often we are deterred by the “am I really making a difference” thought. With plogging, this thought never crosses your mind as you can physically see the difference your efforts make pre- and post-plog. This practice, although small, will ensure that you leave a positive impact everywhere you go.
Magali, our ED, and a group of friends plogging on McNabs Island.
The surprise - How fast 10 minutes goes by when you're busy plogging!! I was shocked at how much garbage you can pick up in 10 minutes, since I don't often time myself.
The advice - Plogging is better together! I had a lot of fun plogging with my friends, and we made it into a fun game of scavenger hunt (for who could find the biggest, weirdest, most unusual piece of trash) and before long, we had our bags full and big smiles on!
Ruby plogging in Vancouver. Yes! We had some participants on the West coast!
I was surprised how much “garbage” I picked up was actually recyclable.
I was surprised how quickly the time would pass when I was in my groove plogging.
I was pleasantly surprised by how many people would smile and say thanks for cleaning up.
I was surprised how quickly litter would accumulate in just one day.
The advice - Wear gloves! I found it faster and easier to separate recyclables from landfill items right away into separate bags instead of having to sort it after the fact. Use your plogging time as your cool down so you can still get in a good work out if you want to.
♻️ 🌊 🌎
This is part 1 of a 3 part series. Stay tuned to find out more about the success of our challenge and to hear more anecdotes and advice!
By Natasha Tucker
There are plenty of fish in the sea. This saying is often used when we provide encouragement to those looking for love; but have you ever really thought about our oceans when hearing that phrase? Let’s do that now, and start to think about how many animals actually live in our oceans. If you were to look on Google for an answer, you would come across an exorbitantly large number but – be careful – these results can be deceiving. For example, in 2010, the Census of Marine Life reported that there are approximately 215,000 species swimming in our oceans (and that isn’t just fish)! This certainly gives credit to our beloved saying. Unfortunately, those hundreds of thousands of marine creatures are going extinct at an unprecedented rate.
But we must remain positive. With increased public knowledge, we can take action to help keep our aquatic friends and their populations thriving. Case in point, the Grey whale. In the 1900s, this species was a target for whalers, who sought their blubber and body parts for various industrial purposes. This increasing hunting pressure almost sealed their fate and left their numbers at only 2,000. Luckily, outrage from the public put an increasing awareness of these animals, made concrete change to laws, and ensured that Grey whales and their breeding grounds were protected. Today, the Grey Whale’s population is estimated to be at 26,000 individuals.
“Smiling” Grey whale in Baja, California - Photo credit
Recently, there was a story published about the imminent extinction of the North Atlantic right whale. This past year, there were no mother-calf pairings sighted and 18 recorded deaths. For a worldwide population of only roughly 500, these losses are a significant toll on the species. The most dangerous culprit of their declining numbers, you might ask? Entanglement. Right Whales are becoming entangled in fishing nets and/or suffering from blunt force trauma from boats.
What is unfortunate (but perhaps also fortunate for their future survival), is that these deaths are entirely preventable. We don’t like to think about how our everyday actions hurt the natural world, but in being more accountable for our actions and understanding the impact of them, we can make small changes to help keep these incredible animals safe. It might seem insurmountable, but don’t throw in the towel yet! We can all work together to help conserve this – and many other – species. But we must work together. Doing so is not a novel idea, nor without its successes. Don’t believe me?
North Atlantic right whale - Photo credit
Here in Canada, we have many some huge changes that are definitely worth celebrating. The 2018 budget now reads:
“To better protect, preserve and recover endangered whale species in Canada, the Government proposes to make available $167.4 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. This includes funding for research to help us better understand the factors affecting the health of these whales, as well as actions that we can take now to help address threats arising from human activities.”
High fin to that!
People from across the country are working together to lobby the government to make the protection of whales a priority. Apart from providing monetary support to organizations who share this vision, there are other ways to help our fishy friends and the environments in which they live bounce back from the human pressures we have placed on them. All it takes are a few small, but impactful, changes to your day-to-day life. How? Repeat after me: little changes, big impact!
The best part about this? It’s already working! According to this article, quick implementations of fishing regulations in 2018 have prevented any North Atlantic right whales from being disentangled. This is a huge success, considering that the same time last year, there were several reports of disentanglements and 6 deaths. This is all possible because we worked together towards a common goal. And it’s paying off big time.
Here are a few ideas that you can try incorporating into your daily life to continue to push these successes and others forward.
Try to implement one of these ideas into your life this month. You’ll quickly realise how easy it is to do, and that will hopefully open the door to more possibilities for ocean conservation.
Natasha is a volunteer on the Communications Committee for Back to the Sea Society. She is a proud native of Nova Scotia living in Vancouver and is passionate about the ocean, road trips, and her pet dog and cat. Natasha is an avid advocate for clean oceans and aims to inspire others to get involved too through education, direct action and life hacks to limit use of single use plastics.
by Leah Robertson
On both land, and in the ocean we are thankful for great dads! However, when we think of fish in the ocean, fish parental care may not immediately come to mind. But dads play a huge role in taking care of their offspring in the ocean!
So in honour of father’s day, we have chosen two special fish-dads to highlight! Meet the rock gunnel:
Photo: Leah Robertson
This lil guy is often mistaken for an eel, but they are much smaller than that - only growing to 30cm! In this photo, father rock gunnel is guarding a cluster of eggs which are in the back of this very clever home - a bottle!
Our second dad is the 3-spined stickleback, who will teach us all about the ways fish act as fathers.
Photo: Leah Robertson
This little fish can be found in our local fresh, coastal and brackish waters. They can be characterized by three tiny spikes on the top and the persistence of being a great father!
The males of this fish work hard to build their nest to attract females, when their off springs are just a twinkle in their eye! They work to build these nests by digging a small pit, and then filling it with cozy ocean objects like algae to make it just right. After building their nest, they will do a zigzag dance to attract the female (seriously true!). If the fit is right, the soon to be momma will swim into the nest and lay her eggs. From there on out dad takes over in protecting the eggs, from fanning them often to creating little holes to ensure they are well ventilated soon to be tiny fish. Once the sticklebacks do hatch, dad will try to keep them around for a few days and if any try to wander away he will suck them up with his mouth and spit them back out near the nest. Talk about committed!
We are whaley thankful for dads both on land and in the ocean!
P.S. Special Father’s Day shout out to my own dad!
by Kaitlin Bureck
Becoming a mother automatically enters a person into a sisterhood unimaginable to the rest of us that have not kissed a booboo better, slipped a toonie under a pillow in exchange for a tooth, been covered in another human’s poop, or had the experience of being called Mom. From discussions with my own mother, the force that draws people into this international sisterhood is the knowledge that another person feels the same levels of inexplainable joy and endless love. The cementing force however, is realizing that other mothers have gone through the same hardships, overwhelming responsibility, and exhaustion that comes with raising a child.
This truth and cementing bond transverses the animal kingdom and reaches a selflessness epicentre with a small, deep-sea, and lonely female octopus. Perhaps lonely isn’t completely accurate, she is surrounded by hundreds of lives but they just happen to be of the cemented, milky, and of the not-hatched variety. She spends her days and nights guarding these precious egg capsules from predators by splaying her body over them while also keeping them clean of debris and oxygenated. With so many lives dependant on her, the female octopus rarely has opportunities to move away from her egg capsules and feed – another transcending truth.
Photo by MBARI, 2007
This routine of constant vigilance has been documented to have occurred in one species of deep-sea octopus, Graneledone boreopacifica, for four and half years after the egg capsules were laid. Read that again. If you prefer, that equates approximately to 54 months or 1647 days or 39, 528 hours of guarding, fanning, and starving for this 9-cm long miraculous mother. Why would any organism do this? Well, I wish I could paint a picture of an unparalleled love magnified by the fact that octopuses have three hearts but, in actuality, it has to do with setting up their offspring for success. The longer that a young octopus stays within its egg capsule, the more time they have time to develop so that by the time they hatch they are capable of surviving and hunting on their own. The exceedingly long brooding period that the G. boreopacifica endures is thought to be a product of the cold surrounding waters that cause octopus egg capsules to develop slower than they would in shallow, warmer habitats. The finish line for this marathon of maternal care is marked by the egg capsules hatching followed by the death of the mother octopus. A truly selfless mother.
Whether your mother has 2 arms or 8 arms, their dedication to your being is truly a miracle and one that deserves celebration. Mother’s Day provides us with the perfect opportunity to dedicate some time to thank them for the support they have provided and the love they have given. I for one am going to tell my mom about the little deep-sea octopus and let her know how much the egg capsule appreciated it.
by Kaitlin Bureck
It doesn’t happen regularly, but every once in a while, you will come across an animal that leaves you truly perplexed. There are animals that hold hands, throw punches, mimic leaves, change sexes, have two jaws, regenerate limbs, and have cube-shaped poop. If we were to rank* the perplexities that exist in the animal kingdom however, the top spot would belong to the cuTTlefish**. Not only do they have three hearts and can mimic the shape and texture of their surroundings, but they can also count better than human babies! For these reasons alone, cuTTlefish deserve to be a top contender for the prestigious Perplexity Prize but they have another surprising trick up their tentacle that really sets them apart.
Photo by: Justin Gilligan
Male cuTTlefish compete with one another to catch the attention of females in the hopes of mating with them. These competitions can be very aggressive and often involve barrel rolls, squirts of black ink, and an exchange of bites using hardened beaks. As is the case in many similar debacles, the larger male generally wins the fight. Ironically however, their efforts and injuries may not lead to a successful mating opportunity with observing females. This is because small male cuTTlefish are able to sneak past the fighting males by disguising as a female. The steps to doing so are pretty straightforward, (1) mimic muted female colours, (2) tuck in their tentacles to appear as if they are carrying eggs, and (3) rely on their smaller size. Once they get past the larger competitive males, the smaller males will reveal themselves to the females by turning on a colourful display and, well, you know what happens next.
So, there you have it, an animal whose perplex, peculiar, and puzzling abilities are worthy or recognition and celebration. I challenge you to embody the cuTTlefish – the ultimate trickster – on this special day. I myself, am looking forward to challenging babies to counting contests.
* Every animal is beautiful and unique in its own way
** Although I cannot comment about whether these animals like cuddling, I can confirm that these animals are not referred to as cuddlefish
Kaitlin is a member of our Communications Committee. See her last blog post "It's Raining Adaptations, Hallelujah!" here.
by Kaitlin Burek
When it is raining, I take out my boots and jacket. When it is snowing, I add a scarf and some mittens. When it is windy, I increase my layers and quicken my steps. It is safe to say, that since I moved to the Maritimes, I have adapted to the changing – often unexpected – weather conditions.
My usual response to downpours, blizzards, and wind storms is to stay inside with a bag of storm chips and peak out the window to see how nature is fairing. My view consists of trees, buildings, and the unfortunate person that didn’t reach shelter in time. What I can’t see from my window during these weather events is the ocean, but I can envision the swell and the crashing waves. What is harder to imagine is how our beloved ocean organisms survive – animals and algae alike!
Winter storms in Eastern Passage.
The intertidal zone in Nova Scotia is characterized by things like crabs, snails, mussels, barnacles, and rockweed. These animals are not often described as being hardy, but they should be, as their adaptations allow them to survive in a very volatile environment. The environment is difficult because not only do these animals have to deal with stressors that originate in the ocean, but they also must worry about what comes from the land and atmosphere – eek! Some animals, like crabs, find protection by hiding in cracks or under boulders while others, like snails, carry protection on their back.
Snails heading for the cracks! Photo by Kaitlin.
Nonmobile animals also have found creative ways to adapt to stormy weather; mussels are streamlined, hold onto stable rocks using fine threads, and huddle together; barnacles close their calcareous bodies; and rockweed holds on tight to rock with fancy-dancy* discoid anchoring structures. Whether it is a behavioural or a physical adaptation, the intertidal ocean organisms are designed to survive and thrive!
* Although I wish I could tell you differently, this is not a scientific term. Use with caution.
Mussels clumping. Photo by Kaitlin.
If we were to move deeper into the subtidal, not only would the organisms change, but so would the impact of weather events. If the seabed is further from the ocean surface, it is less impacted by the weather – think of the depth as a kind of buffer zone. Since the organisms are less impacted, they do not dedicate as much energy into weather-protective adaptations. You still see adaptations however; sea stars don suction cup-like tube feet and other benthic invertebrates remain streamlined. The organism’s primary concern in the subtidal, unlike the intertidal, is not to adapt to weather but instead put energy into fleeing predators and finding food – how cool!
If we were to go deeper in the ocean you may notice some differences that exist between that ecosystem and the one that exists in the intertidal and the subtidal. First off, it is dark, I mean no-sun-is-penetrating dark, and it is cold. What you will not notice however, is sloshing water caused from overhead weather events. Other than debris falling from surface waters, there would be no evidence of a weather event because wave energy does not attenuate deep enough to impact the organisms that live there.
So, my advice to you is if you really want to escape Maritime weather events you should hop, skip, and jump to the bottom of the ocean.
This Valentine's Day, our Communications Committee members came together to let their favourite ocean animals know just how much they care for them. Read on for some pun-filled entertainment and fun facts!
I'm Not Squiddin' You Valentine!
Before my time at Back to the Sea I worked for the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium. For my first interview there, I was told to bring a prop and talk about an ocean animal. I knew I couldn’t bring a live octopus, so I settled for its North Atlantic cousin - the squid! From that moment forward, it was an inky love affair. As highly intelligent creatures, cephalopods continually amaze scientists with their ability to understand, learn and even go so far as to escape their tanks! We love to do squid dissections to not only feed our animals, but also to teach our visitors all about these slimy (and at times smelly) creatures. I have been known to write squid ink letters, and maybe if you are so lucky at the Touch Tank Hut you can have one too!
A squid dissection demo by Leah for kids at the Touch Tank Hut!