Mys­te­ri­ous plas­tic on Cape Ray beach is ac­tu­ally sea­grass

En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter en­cour­ages com­mu­ni­ties to con­tact dept. in cases of en­vi­ron­men­tal ab­nor­mal­i­ties

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

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

“The depart­ment will al­ways work with com­mu­ni­ties to fig­ure out so­lu­tions.”

– An­drew Par­sons, En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter

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.

ROS­ALYN ROY/THE GULF NEWS

Paul Tav­erner reg­u­larly cleans up this soft, sandy beach near his cabin.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK LOMOND

This sea­grass closely re­sem­bles a light­weight shred­ded plas­tic once it dries.

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