Clean Ocean Action

by Jessica Westerland; R. Cohen | Aug 4, 2015
Clean Ocean Action If you don’t live at the Jersey shore, you most likely enjoy visiting the shore with its long stretches of beaches curving softly around the coastal estuaries. No doubt that countless visitors enjoy the sea breeze and the sound of the ocean hitting the sand. Clean Ocean Action exists for one sole purpose: Protecting the coasts that we hold dear.

Clean Ocean Action organizes and carries out campaigns that reduce plastics and litter that pollute waterways, spoil beautiful beaches, and harm or kill marine life including turtles, whales, seals, birds, and fish; reduce toxins in waterways to ensure fish and shellfish are free of pollution and safe to eat; and to “educate and motivate citizens from the small to the tall.”

They do this through identifying the sources of pollution and “mounting an attack on each source by using research, public education, and citizen action to convince our public officials to enact and enforce measures which will clean up and protect our ocean.”

One of the ways you can get involved and help the beaches you love to visit is by participating in the beach sweeps that Clean Ocean Action conducts. There are many different sites throughout the New Jersey Coast. The beach sweeps take place in the spring and fall. For more information, go to

Cleaning up the beach is important because of many reasons. A big one is the wildlife, like fish, whales, birds, and other animals that often mistake litter for food. As a result, animals get entangled in or ingest items, such as plastic bags, cigarette filters, and fishing line, with deadly results. Cigarette filters mimic the appearance of fish and have been found in the stomachs of birds and larger fish, blocking and affecting their digestion. Also, the filters are made of plastic fibers and trap carcinogenic chemicals that are introduced into animals’ bloodstreams.

“Moreover, plastic litter takes a few years to several hundred years to break down, thereby threatening wildlife for decades. Litter in waterways can also foul boat motors and propellers, resulting in costly repairs. Finally, littered beaches can ruin a day at the beach. Garbage slicks and wash-ups close beaches to swimming and are detrimental to tourism and the coastal economy.” This and other facts can be found on the Clean Ocean Action website.

When you participate in the beach sweep, you aren’t just cleaning up the beach and helping wildlife. While picking up trash, you also are recording what you find on data cards. The information from the data cards are then compiled at each site and finally all of the site data is compiled and compressed into a number that can be used to get help for the beaches in the future. To advocate change, you need numbers, statistics and facts to back up your petition or suggestion. Clean Ocean Action gets the figures which can be used to note trends of decrease or increase in trash, and specifically what kind of trash poses the greatest threat.

“Recent studies show that 60-80% of marine debris is plastic. In 2008, 74% of the debris that was collected during Clean Ocean Action’s Beach Sweeps was plastic. Through the data that is collected during the Beach Sweeps, we are able to know that New Jersey is on the higher end of this statistic.”

In 2009, the "Roster of the Ridiculous," which lists the most unusual items found, included mannequin legs with socks, an oxygen tank, soiled underwear, flash drive, and a working Iphone. Also in 2009, 5,556 volunteers collected 301,564 pieces of debris from 132 locations during the combined Spring and Fall cleanups. As a result, an estimated 59,270 pounds of debris was removed from the Jersey's shore and waterways.

Clean Ocean Action believes that “Organizations and individuals are the ocean's first line of defense.” Also, “people will take action to protect things that they love. Together, we must act quickly and effectively to keep our ocean clean.”

Since 1985, more than 101,000 volunteers have collected information on over 5.19 million pieces of trash from the Jersey shore.

For COA's summer 2015 C.O.A.S.T program, they launched a guide to help citizens reduce their use of plastics, which has become a chronic and lethal pollution problem in the ocean. Called "12 Steps to Kick Your Plastic Habit," the campaign links the near-daily use of single use plastic disposals to an addiction, warranting recognition of the overuse and commitment to withdrawal.

Click here to read the 12 steps and start kicking your plastic habit today!

2015 Events

September 26, their Shore Paddle Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) event will be held at Marine Park in Red Bank, NJ. The Shore Paddle offers a 6.5 Mile Race, 2.5 Mile Fun Paddle, 1/2 Mile Kids Paddle, free SUP demos and lessons, and SUP yoga! Join us for a fun day in the park with vendors, kids crafts, free yoga, and more! Follow Shore Paddle on Facebook for more updates and event details. To register, visit

There is a Beach Sweep scheduled for October 24, rain or shine. Please dress for the weather, wear hard-soled shoes, and bring gloves. Click here for locations. To find out more about Clean Ocean Action and how you can get involved, go to

Updated 8/3/15

Photo by Jessica Westerland

© 2015. All rights reserved. This article or parts thereof may not be reprinted or reproduced by any other party without the express written consent of For more information, please call 856-797-9910.

For more on local Organizations, visit our South Jersey Organizations page.

Article continues below


Related Articles

Author: Jessica Westerland; R. Cohen


Family Fun

Live from the White House


Stepping Up to the Plate

Local Story

Lingering Questions

Still Fresh

Under the South Jersey Sun

Riverside Retreat

Against All Odds

Like a Girl

Going Her Own Way

Fall In

Aiming to Please

Walk of Fame: Natalie Hope Sommermann