Marines

Devil Dogs and Turtles get cleaner beach

28 Mar 2009 | Cpl. Bryce C.K. Muhlenberg

  “I love it, it’s pretty rewarding because I’m helping people and get to enjoy the pleasure of giving Marines

the chance to enjoy the most beautiful beach on the east,” said Chris Foley, the assistant manager of Onslow

Beach.

 Eighty-four individuals took part in the fourth annual Onslow-Beach Sweep March 28 to beautify the shoreline and make the Loggerhead Sea turtle’s habitat environmentally sustainable.

 The volunteers, both civilian and military, collected over 88 four-gallon bags of trash collected from the approximately two-mile shoreline, said Foley, a retired master gunnery sergeant.

 Coffee, drinks and cookies were provided for the volunteers, who Foley said were mainly concerned with the health of the beach.

 “Best of all, it didn’t rain,” said Foley, who spent 30 years in the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam.  “We really had a hoot!”

 Interestingly, people were surprised when Foley informed them the beach isn’t only home to devil dogs, it is primarily a breeding ground for the Loggerhead Sea turtle. 

 “The beach is a habitat for the (Loggerhead), and we keep it clean for her so when she comes aboard she doesn’t get tangled up and can enjoy the beach too,” said the leatherneck.  “She comes aboard and lays her eggs in several nesting sites, and that’s why the base environmental department has a huge program dedicated to protect the Loggerhead – they’re as serious about her as if they were protecting their wife.”

 This is because the Loggerhead is listed by the federal government as threatened under the endangered species act, said Craig Tenbrick, the wildlife and threatened or endangered species project manager.  The Loggerhead is also the most common turtle at Onslow Beach, with 30 nests present over the last five years.

 This beach sweep brought a sigh of relief to environmentalists as alternative nesting sites along the North Carolina coast may be considerably less desirable nesting sites than Onslow Beach.

 “Other sites have the potential of containing much more human activity and artificial lighting, both of which are adverse conditions for nesting purposes,” said Tenbrick.  “Cleaning up the beach is a good thing also, because turtles can become entangled in the trash and commonly mistake plastic bags for jelly fish, which are a food source for these turtles.”

 If trash is ingested it can cause many digestive problems that eventually result in death.  

 This is bad news for the Loggerhead and other species such as the Green Sea Turtle, also endangered, and the Leatherback, the largest of sea turtles.
Accordingly, the sweep volunteers cleared everything from rusty tires to metal cans and trash bags, all of which had floated to the beach and into dunes during the off season.  This occurred when storms pulled trash from the deep shoreline, into the ocean and back onto the beach.  Sand fences collected most of the debris involved, allowing easy access for sweepers.

 “We really do get a nice turnout every year because people want to help protect the beach and it’s a great time,” said Foley.

 Foley and those involved in the management of the beach are currently planning the installation of recycling bins throughout the 2-mile shoreline.  This effort will serve to cut down on shoreline and environmental pollution due to reduced littering and waste of recyclable materials.

 For more information about Onslow Beach or lodging reservations please call 910-451-7228.