Sporting job: BUEI staff Jessica Meredith and Brittany Ricca examine Judie Clee’s collection of beach debris. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Judie Clee’s collection of flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on Bermuda’s beaches is as amazing as it is disturbing.
For years she combed the shoreline gathering plastic dolls parts, lobster pot tags from Maine, octopus traps from Africa and even knife handles from container shipments lost in the Atlantic.
Today the collection forms part of an educational exhibit at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
But it also serves as a stark reminder of the state of our oceans and how far plastic pollution can travel before it arrives on our beaches.
Mrs Clee told the Sun: “I have lived in Bermuda all my life and have always loved the beaches and the oceans. The beachcombing only really began a few years ago when I retired. But I quickly accumulated all sorts of plastic debris from our beaches.
“In Bermuda it is really noticeable the amount of plastic debris that washes up on our beaches with bite marks from marine critters.
“A lot of the trash that ends up on our beaches has come from containers that have fallen off ships at sea or plastic debris that has accumulated out in the Sargasso Sea.
“You can tell it comes from a container when you get a spate of similar finds like the knife handles that turned up not so long ago and similar types of plastic dolls or cuddly toys.
“Then there are times when we have seen an influx of blue biros, deodorant balls and even children’s hair clips.”
Over the years Mrs Clee has been able to trace where much of the debris that ends up on Bermuda’s beaches has originally come from.
She said: “It is amazing where some of the debris originates, especially when you consider just how tiny we are.
“We have seen lobster pot tags from an unsuccessful experiment in Florida turn up years later in Bermuda.
“And then there are the hundreds of octopus cages that have floated here all the way from Africa. It’s mindboggling.
“We also get thousands of glow sticks that long line fishermen use and these can be very dangerous to birds like Albatross that mistake them for food and take them to their young.
“Plastic pollution in our oceans is a huge problem and we need to raise awareness about the devastating effects it can have.”