Toby Hemingway 17

Plastic – the facts

    • Humans have created 8300 million metric tonnes of plastic in the last 60+ years
    • Every year between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes end up in our oceans
    • A single 1L plastic bottle could break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world.

There were fewer calves in the pod. No one knew why. Mating activity was similar to other seasons but not as many females became pregnant. And, there were stillborn calves — a rarity in the pod’s collective memory. Each baby was more and more precious to the pod members. Several grandmothers helped watch over the adopted calf giving her time to hunt. The pod responded to shifting locations of prey requiring more exertion and time. Since her stillborn baby, she’d puzzled over all that weakened their survival and joy. It surely must be related to The Changes.


It was October and fishermen at the Pensacola Pier were pulling in redfish. It was a bonanza. The fish migrated closer to shore to fatten-up on menhaden, mullet, and crustaceans for the coming winter months.

“It’s a topwater lure you need this morning, Marsh,” Vern advised and gestured toward a variety of lures he’d laid out. “I’ve been getting good action with the darker lure but I see people around me with the light.”

“I’ll try the white Z-Man,” Marsh said lifting the rubbery lure to his line.

They were casting far from the dock structure. Later they switched to live bait (mullet, shrimp, crab) for around the dock itself.

The redfish streaked across the translucent water where Marsh could observe their golden-dark shadows moving with speed and grace against the white sand below.

Vern was quiet as usual. “We’ll be able to fish for flounder next month. They migrate here to mate in November. Would you like to join me and my wife in our boat to fish for them?”

“Yes!” Marsh said without hesitation. “I didn’t know you had a boat.”

“My wife uses it mostly. . .she and her Fishin’ Chix.”

“The what chics?” Marsh laughed.

“Yeah, a bunch of women who are fishing fanatics,” he said, reeling in a redfish. “And none of them are your age, in case you had any aspirations.”

Marsh didn’t know too much about flounder but being with Vern in a boat fishing was a strong pull. And, anticipation of Mrs. Vern‘s good cooking.

“Hey, Vern. Did you find anything unusual when you cleaned your Kingfish last week?” He asked remembering the odd fish.

“No, why?”

“When my Uncle opened up one of the Kings, we found an ugly black growth that smelled like oil,” Marsh explained.

Vern was quiet, thinking, fishing. “Tell you the truth. I’m surprised we don’t find more life that with the oil spill and all.”

“It made me think when I fixed the other one. I mean, I wonder if there is stuff we don’t see that’s there, you know?”

“Keep thinking like that and you’ll starve,” Vern reminded him.

“Guess so,” he said. Marsh wondered how many others like him depended on their fishing for a regular source of food.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle

Just then a shout rang out at the far end of the pier. Everyone was reeling in and walking down there. Marsh and Vern joined the crowd of fishermen.

Flopping on the pier was a sea turtle with a hook down its throat. It was ‘swimming’ through the air on its back, contorting to right itself. There were two fishermen who had lifted the turtle using a basket and rope that the Pier kept on hand just for this happenstance. It was part of a sea turtle conservation effort. By lifting it in a basket, they avoided further harm to the sea turtle.

Every year, legions of sea turtles were found impaled by fishing gear, slashed by churning blades, or entombed in nets or plastic. It was not uncommon for the Pier fishermen to pull out a sea turtle. Today, these two men had already called the Sea Turtle Rescue team to take the sea turtle to a rehab facility. Once the turtle was tended to, the rehabbers would give it a thorough going over, make sure it was eating, and then release it back to the Gulf.

“It looks beat up,” one observer said.

“Maybe it’s old,” another added.

“How can you tell,” someone else asked.

“Don’t know.”

“I think you count the rings inside one of the scales,” an older fisherman offered.

Marsh noted the curiosity about the turtle including his own. For the first time he thought about what kind of job he could get that would keep him near the Gulf and doing this: following his curiosity and love for the ocean — and getting paid to do it!







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s