Protecting the planet
one beach at a time

I love our coast. The Northern California coast soothes my soul and makes me a better person. And sadly, I see the results of humans dumping eight million metric tons of plastic debris in the planet’s ocean each year. So I walk the beaches from Muir Woods to Jenner with my cameras and trash bags. I always find interesting subjects to photograph and trash to collect. Lots of trash, so far I’ve packed out nearly seven tons. Reducing all trash, especially plastics in the ocean has become my mission.

My passion for the environment draws me closer to her, nourishing my desire to protect habitat and reduce our impact on the coast, especially priceless Tomales Bay. In the past 10 years of combing this coast on foot and by boat, I’ve learned about the devastation of plastics on birds, fish, marine mammals, and of course humans. Plastic trash on the beach arrives mostly from the sea, though visitors and locals also contribute to the mess. Sun, waves and wind grind this plastic mess into tiny particles that bind with other petroleum based toxins. These particles are eaten by fish and birds, and enter the complex food web of which we are a part of.

Trash washes up 24/7/365. My volunteer efforts include collecting trash, leading beach cleanup groups, public education and weaving together businesses, government and non-profit agencies with shared information to mitigate our impact. Our annual Beach Clean-ups and local individual efforts are dwarfed by the wave of new trash arriving every day.

This website is a culmination of my effort to bring the problem to the forefront, discuss solutions and share the beautiful, surprising, often times sad and maddening discoveries. You’ll find reports of my findings going back to 2010, from Beijing 2008 Olympics water bottles that continue washing up, the America’s Cup AC-72 boat pieces, the regular arrival of dirty hypodermic needles at Point Reyes National Seashore beaches, flushed by heavy rains from the streets of Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere into San Francisco Bay and to the sea.

Silent gratitude comes from my board of directors and occasionally a human. I don’t have sponsors apart from the individual donations to this website.

To take an active role, come walk the beach with me. Join the effort: buy less plastic, reduce your use of single-use items, pick up trash wherever you may be, help spread the word and educate others, support those who promote public policy to bring fundamental change. And, if you can help my efforts, I would be thankful for your donation.


Click on image to see it larger

Some of my tracks from hundreds of visits to this beach to remove marine trash.


Board of Directors

Respecting Tomales Bay – 16 September 2017 is coastal cleanup day – meet at Marconi Center

Help clean up Tomales Bay, then enjoy an oyster BBQ.

Go here to register.

Show up a little early to the activity field at Marconi.

845 am show up
900 am – noon show the bay some love
noon – 200 pm enjoy a bbq oyster feast

Fishing is hard on the sea, living is hard on my heart

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

The debris shown in the images below was collected after the first big storm of 2012 in early February.

Over two days I spent 10 hours and covered about three miles of Drakes Beach and South Beach. Just imagine what all the beaches of Point Reyes were covered with from just one storm!

The plan was to have posted these images in February. Due to painful distractions, I am finally getting around to sharing what I hope you find are compelling images. That is, I hope they compel you to give some thought to all that happens in order to bring seafood to your table.

Tomorrow is the commercial crab opener of 2012. Thousands of crab pots have been dropped in the sea attached to miles and miles of petroleum based rope, foam floats and plastic bait jars. Much of this gear will be lost due to storm, propeller strike or other activities. While scraping and grinding along the bottom of the sea, or abrading on the beach sand, many thousands of pounds of plastic will be pulverized and deposited into the food chain.

Does society have any idea what is undertaken to put seafood on their table? The time, expense and effort of the fishermen, the vast amount of gear lost at sea each season, or stolen by unscrupulous crab fishermen? A local fishermen once told me, after sharing with me the many ways in which fishermen “do unto others” in not such golden ways, “Crab fishing makes ya crabby!”

Be sure to have a look at the last picture. There you will get a close look at about 75 oyster spacer tubes from Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) in the foreground. I have found well over 5000 of these in the last five years. From as far north as the tip of Tomales Point and south to Slide Ranch.

Click on image for bigger picture – Debris recovered over two days work, about ten hours effort

Click on image for bigger picture – Should the price of crab reflect the cost to the planet?

Click on image for bigger picture – Maybe some of this is yours?

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Click on image for bigger picture – Heroin, nicotine and caffeine….slower, faster, anywhere but here and now…

Click on image for bigger picture – If all dogs at the seashore are on leash….how come I find 100’s of tennis balls and ball tossers each year?

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Click on image for bigger picture – Each one of those orange tags represents about $200 in lost gear for a crab fisherman. What if they paid a deposit on each trap set? To offset the cost of picking up after all their gear that litters the ocean and beaches.

Click on image for bigger picture – Black PVC pipe oyster spacers used by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. You see 75 or so here. I have found over 5000 of these on Point Reyes beaches, as well as dozens oyster grow-out bags and the foam from inside grow-out bags.

All forms of commercial fishing take a huge toll on our planet.

Is it asking too much to set aside portions of the planet as areas we tread upon lightly, or tread upon not at all?

Many say we must do all we can to produce food locally, sustainably to feed the 7 billion humans on earth.

Others say we need to slow the growth of the human population, keep it more in line with the carrying capacity of earth.

This planet is fragile. Humans, only one of the many species on this blue sphere, have developed the means to do great good and great harm. As we ever more quickly modify our nest, it is less able to feed an ever growing population. Does this make sense? Does a growing family move into ever smaller and smaller housing?

I think The Dude said it best:

Tangled up and blue

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

September, seductive winter light is coming on, beaches are covered deep in sand pushed ashore over the summer, making access easier. Not the high season for litter usually. Local fisherman have been plying the Marin coastline for months looking for crab, salmon, halibut and rockfish.

I can tell when they have been out. Beaches are covered in beer and soda cans, bait packaging, miles of plastic rope, hundreds of buoys and bait containers, snack wrappers and sometimes fishing poles or parts of boats. All blown or carelessly tossed overboard, then blown to shore. I pick it all up and pack it out on my back.

This evening a shiny flasher caught my eye in the wrack, I bent down to untangle it from the surf grass and other kelp. A long strand of mono-filament was threaded into the plants, a plastic hoochie, more line, a copper spring of some sort. Then I spied the scavenged body of a seabird, a murre or guillemot with a large nest of the mono-filament tangled around what was left of the wings and sternum.

NOTE: According to a bird expert I know, the bird is a common murre.

Had the bird seen a fish on the hook, swallowed it and died? Or had it surfaced and become tangled up in the line after diving perhaps 200 feet deep in search of a meal? I did not know. I only know that it was alive before coming into contact with this man-made trash, and now it was dead, wrapped in plastic.

Egg to bird to egg to bird and so on. Nothing in that cycle is toxic. All of it breaks down into something another creature uses for life.

Humans on the other hand have created all manner of clever tools. Tools made of plastic, which comes from oil. Plastic clothing, plastic fishing gear, plastic boats, plastic food wrappers. All of it so convenient for humans, for a moment that is. Once we are done with our “single-use” item, we generally toss it overboard, or into the land-fill, or the street, or out the window as we drive down the freeway.

None of this plastic breaks down or goes away or turns into something humans can eat.

What other creatures celebrate milestones in their life by releasing balloons into the air? Balloons made of nylon or latex that will fall back to earth eventually. Balloons that look like jellyfish and other forms of food to sea-life. Have a look here at the hundreds of images of balloons I found at the beach and in the High Sierra Nevada.

We are poisoning our nest, the nest of all the creatures on this planet, with our human conveniences.

Can we survive without so much plastic in our lives?

We survived until 1907 without any synthetic plastic.

From an article in the New York Times:

About 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally each year. Only about 10 percent of that is recycled. Of the plastic that is simply trashed, an estimated seven million tons ends up in the sea each year.

There, it breaks down into smaller and smaller fragments over the years.

The tinier the pieces, the more easily they are swallowed by marine life. (One study found that fish in the North Pacific ingest as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year).

Nineteen is a prime number – too large and too small…

Last Saturday I walked 3 miles along Point Reyes Beach from North Beach to Abbotts Lagoon with the Point Reyes Plover expert. She does this regularly during Western Snowy Plover breeding season. She also covers other regions of the Point Reyes Snowy Plover breeding area. This day we were on the lookout for 5 Snowy Plover chicks that had hatched recently.

She prowled for birds while I gleaned the plastics that wash ashore on a regular basis.

After creating a small depression in the sand and lining it with mostly light colored rocks to increase the stealthiness of the nest, a female plover will lay 2-4 eggs directly on the sand. Most times she lays 3 eggs.

Three Western Snowy Plover eggs in a scrape (nest)

About 28 days later, if the sea has not washed away the eggs, ravens, crows, coyotes, raccoons, skunks or weasels have not eaten the eggs, off-leash dogs or errant humans have not trampled the nest, the birds emerge form their cocoon. Plover chicks are “precocious”, meaning that they are out of the nest and cruising for food within hours after hatching.

Mother plover leaves to go find another mate, father plover begins a month-long odyssey attempting to ensure his brood learns to eat, and keeps from being eaten.

Researchers consider a chick fledged if it survives 28 days. The last 3 years at Point Reyes have seen 7, 8 and 5 chicks fledge (2010, 2009, 2008). There are an estimated 5000 plovers, period.

Western Snowy Plovers are on the endangered species list. This means that they are in danger of going extinct. Extinct means there are no more plovers. Ever.

Dog owners, please keep this in mind the next time you want to let your domesticated, far from extinct pal run off-leash in this area.

Beach driftwood architects, enjoy building your complex driftwood structures. But, once you are done, please dismantle your work-of-art. Ravens use these structures to rest and look for prey, including endangered plovers. Don’t make it easy for ravens to further reduce the dwindling numbers of snowy plovers.

The park plover expert knows when each plover egg is laid and when each chick hatches. Finding all plovers present and accounted for each day is a good day.

Last Saturday we found all 5 chicks, plus fourteen adults for a total of nineteen birds.

I found a small bag of plastic trash, including nineteen plastic beverage bottles.

Nineteen plastic bottles, nineteen too many

So, depending on one’s perspective, nineteen is too small, and too large.

Please use one metal bottle for your drinking water needs.

The coastodian

I don’t like your bottles in the park

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

A couple days ago I stopped to get coffee at a local market.

As I got out of my car and walked towards the door, cup in hand, a woman I know shouted out to me “Hey, shouldn’t you be out on the beach picking up trash?”

She was smiling as she said it. One of those smiles that says I am kidding, but not fully.

I explained that I wrenched my knee and was on the DL for a while as I recuperated.

Standing feet apart from one another at the edge of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, she said to me, “I saw your sculptures in the park by the visitor center. I don’t like them in the National Park.”

I’ve known her for a few years now, mostly bumping into her at volunteer events at the park. She is a long time Point Reyes National Seashore volunteer, roosting in West Marin when not at one of her other residences.

She is always pretty direct, in your face. She likes to get a reaction with her words.

The object of her disdain is “Thirsty?”, my collection of five eight-and-a-half-foot-tall plastic bottle sculptures. I spent a year picking up about a ton of trash off park beaches, from which I culled one item, plastic bottles, to create the art installation.

“What don’t you like about the sculptures?” I asked.

“I don’t like their aesthetic,” she said.

“Yeah. They look kind of trashy in the meadow don’t they?” I stated.

“That’s right, I don’t like that sort of thing in the National Park, it looks bad,” she said.

At this point I am figuring she declined to walk over to the art installation and read the 43-word interpretive panel explaining the piece.

“I’m glad you don’t like it,” I said, “neither do I. All that trash in the park is just plain wrong!”

I encouraged her, after entering the market, to ask the owner to stop selling bottled water. He has told me he is a capitalist and he intends to make money, consequences be damned.

I’m not quite sure she got the message of “Thirsty?”.

Tons of trash washes ashore on California beaches each and every day. Most of it almost tinier than the eye can see in the form of (raw plastic-nurdles), shredded Styrofoam pellets, packaging, toys, fishing gear, food containers etc.

Most people don’t see the magnitude of the trash problem when they visit the beach.

Magnifying the problem by building eight and a half foot tall plastic bottles apparently registered on her radar.

How big do I need to make these bottles to get on a majority of people’s radar?

We are shitting in our nest a toxic brew of chemicals nature cannot metabolize.

Please, use one metal bottle!

the coastodian

Thirsty? at Bear Valley Visitor Center - Point Reyes National Seashore

Salvation from the sea – SmartWater

Of the thousands of plastic water bottles I picked up and packed out during 2010, only one of them was an empty, sand encrusted SmartWater bottle.

So far during 2011 I have found three. A twelve-hundred percent increase over last year. With so much smart drinking going on, people will soon realize they have been doing it all wrong with respect to drinking water.


Water, the old-fashioned stuff that flows down rivers once flush with wild salmon is composed of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. Ideally not much else.

SmartWater is so much more.

SmartWater is distilled tap water, with electrolytes (likely salt) added. Nothing more. Enhanced water in the parlance of the marketing gurus that peddle it.

Much energy has been expended to school this dullard. After so costly an education, this water is too good to run from a simple tap. A petroleum-based plastic bottle is produced to contain this erudite brew. Only now can you, the thirsty consumer be expected to pay more than ten dollars per gallon for it.

If this water is so smart, then I should never find a single misplaced bottle on the beach. All of them should be getting recycled, right?

Unwilling to afford this crazy, Coca-Cola owned concoction, I wonder if I can home school my tap?

Dumb water with other not so smart plastic

The Coastodian