December 13, 2017
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Group that cleans beaches from Maine to Mass. gets a financial boost

By Elizabeth Dinan, Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald | BDN
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald | BDN
The staff of the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation including Dianna Schulte, co-founder and president, left, Rebeca Murillo, program coordinator, and Jen Kennedy, co-founder and executive director, received a $25,000 New Hampshire state grant to continue the numerous beach cleanups the group leads, removing 10,000 pounds of trash from area beaches.

During hundreds of beach clean-ups last year, 10,000 pounds of trash was removed from the local coastline, said Jen Kennedy, co-founder of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire,-based Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation.

To ensure Kennedy, Blue Ocean co-founder Dianna Schulte, and hundreds of volunteers keep up their good work, the New Hampshire governor’s Executive Council on Wednesday approved a $25,000 grant to the nonprofit group dedicated to marine conservation. The grant is allocated for collecting marine debris, monitoring and prevention efforts, as well as to increase public awareness of marine conservation, according to the state.

Kennedy said she leads volunteer cleanups of area beaches from York, Maine, to Salisbury, Massachusetts, and last year volunteers gave 3,000 hours of their time to remove trash from beaches.

“The thing that surprised me, is the large number of [toy] Army men,” said Kennedy about items she’s removed from local beaches. “I have quite a collection of those.”

She said discs that escaped the Hooksett sewage treatment plant six years ago are still found on the local the shoreline and last year about 1,800 plastic straws were removed from area beaches. On Hampton Beach alone, she said, volunteers picked up more than 800 plastic straws last year.

Robert Scott, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Services, requested approval of the federal grant by letter to Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council. In supporting the grant, Scott noted debris data collected by Blue Ocean is submitted to a marine debris database that’s been maintained by the University of New Hampshire for the past decade.

The grant source is the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Scott’s request notes the effort will “broaden marine debris collection and education in communities throughout the coastal region.” The grant will also be used to recruit and train new volunteers, conduct beach cleanups and identify new cleanup sites.

Kennedy said a portion of the grant will be used to show the documentary film “Straws,” in an effort to educate the public about plastic straw use. She said plastic straws are choking hazards to marine wildlife, are not easily recycled and are unnecessary.

She said the grant money will also fund workshops for volunteer leaders, who then lead cleanups. Scout groups, employee teams and other volunteers are educated before cleanup events, when individuals are also encouraged to help, she said.

Kennedy said she started the nonprofit in 2001 and has since taken over beach cleanups from the DES. In all those years of cleaning litter from beaches, she said, she’s never seen or heard of anyone finding anything of value.

“No never,” she said. “It’s funny people never leave valuables on the beach.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for beach cleanups, or supporting Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, can visit blueoceansociety.org.

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