Man on mission to clear Jersey Shore of trash; raise awareness of danger to animals

The amount of trash in New Jersey’s waterways and beaches tends to get most of the attention during the summer beach season. But it is a problem that never goes away for wildlife.

News 12 Staff

Feb 16, 2022, 12:19 AM

Updated 850 days ago

Share:

The amount of trash in New Jersey’s waterways and beaches tends to get most of the attention during the summer beach season. But it is a problem that never goes away for wildlife.
In December 2021, park rangers and rescuers with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center attempted to rescue a juvenile pygmy sperm whale that was found emaciated, unhealthy and struggling in the shallows of the Sandy Hook Bay. The whale died of a heart attack mid-rescue. Scientists got the results of the necropsy last week and learned that the 350-pound whale died from choking on trash.
“We were surprised to find the animal had in fact ingested a piece of cloth – black cloth. We haven’t identified the cloth or where it came from, but it blocked the entire stomach and it was unable to take in any other food and it had no food in its stomach whatsoever,” says Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
Schoelkopf says that the whale most likely mistook the cloth for food.
“They are very curious when they see something floating that they would swallow it,” he says.
The fact that trash is a big concern at the Jersey Shore is no surprise to many who live there.
“There’s so much, you go, ‘How much can I actually grab,’” says Tony Costa.
Costa volunteers with the Sandy Hook park to give interpretive tours of the military sites. He became so disgusted with the amount of trash on the beach, that he vowed to start picking up all that he could. He documents the mess on his Instagram account “NJBeachTrash” to try to build awareness.
“It used to upset me and I’d always say, ‘Oh, somebody should do something about that.’ Finally, one day, in the back of my head, I said, ‘Who’s somebody?’” Costa says.
Costa documents all types of trash that is left at the Shore – items such as drinking cans, gaming chairs, fluorescent lamps and even a bong.
The trash on Sandy Hook is most likely trash that washed up after finding its way down streams, rivers and storm drains of North Jersey, New York and into the New York Bay.
“Slowly you find like-minds who want to [help clean up],” Costa says.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine is still awaiting a sample of the cloth that killed the whale from a state lab, so they get a clearer picture of where it came from.


More from News 12