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Good, clean fun.

Endangered sea turtles and their reef habitat get a big helping hand--from 42 small ones.

September 6, 1992, 8:30 A.M.--Most residents of North Palm Beach, Florida were hunched over their branflakes reading the newspaper. But 21 kids from the Wellington Boys and Girls Club were hitting the surf--snorkels, masks, and flippers in hand--ready to make headlines.

Their mission? To clean up the trash littering a rock reef 45 meters offshore at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park; and to help restore the habitat of thousands of sea creatures, including endangered sea turtles.

Some of the kids thought they were in for a relaxing day of sun and surf. But one look at the reef dispelled any such notions. "I had no idea the reef was going to be that dirty," says Jason Jones.

There was plenty of work to be done, and you didn't need a Ph.D. in marine biology to do it. All you needed were two hands and a trash bag.

"We filled bags with things like soda cans, plastic baggies, and gum wrappers," says April Eckstein, a regular at the club's many environmental activities. Everyone knows that turtles don't chew gum, and they sure don't drink pop. Clearly, people had created the problem here; and it would take dedicated people like the Boys and Girls Club members to help solve it.

TRASH BASHING

As the sun rose high in the sky, the urgency of the mission heated up. The kids learned that the trash was more than just an underwater eyesore. In the sea, as on land, garbage can wreak havoc with wildlife. Fishing line caught between rocks can mow down an entire field of seagrass, food and shelter for small fish and crabs. Rusting cans foul the water for the reef's sea sponges, coral, sea slugs, and thousands of fish.

Perhaps most alarming is that the trash blocks the path of female sea turtles who swim thousands of miles to lay their eggs on the sandy shores. Strangled by six-pack rings or suffocated by plastic bags, many of the turtles never reach their nesting grounds. Those that make it risk their lives on the way back. Their hatchlings also have to clear huge man-made hurdles as they make their first journey out to sea.

The clincher is that many of these disasters could be avoided by an activity as simple as cleaning up the mess. By 5:00 P.M., the kids were still hauling chunks of metal, ropes, pieces of glass, bottles, and plastic jugs ashore. The catch of the day: an enormous aqua-colored rug. It took several strong arms to carry it to the beach.

Exhausted, but satisfied, the volunteers headed home. "We'll do it again this summer," says group leader Victor Rivera.

How would you dive in to lend nature a hand?
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Title Annotation:project to help endangered sea turtles
Author:Freiman, Chana
Publication:Science World
Date:Apr 16, 1993
Words:473
Previous Article:Get active!
Next Article:This sport is for the birds!
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