As the discussion grows down at City Hall about Tacoma enacting a reusable bag initiative that will include a ban on plastic grocery bags, the question has arisen about just how much debris is on city beaches. The implication being made by those who oppose any moratorium on plastic bags is that these items are such a negligible part of the marine pollution scene that banning them would just be silly. It’s a vapid argument but those making it do have a point, which is that we don’t have any quantified observations to draw from that could make the case, or at least be applied to the discussion.
In the interest of getting some baseline knowledge and some numbers on paper, the Ikkatsu Project is going to be organizing the Tacoma Shoreline Survey, a systematic study of the debris that accumulates in the municipal intertidal zone. The total shoreline has been divided into four segments, each of which will be paddled or hiked in its entirety, with accumulation surveys (following NOAA protocol), to be done at various points throughout the study area. The first round of surveys are being planned for August, while the second and final round will take place as soon as possible after the first rain storm of the fall season. Comparing what is present in the summer with what is likely to be there after the rain has washed debris down from area rivers and streams is another valuable aspect of the study.
Results will be made available to council members as well as forwarded to the NOAA database. We’re hoping to be able to attract some volunteers who would like to participate, either using kayaks or traveling on foot. If you’re interested and would like to be a part of this important survey process, please send an email to and we’ll get you more information. We hope to hear from you soon.