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Be a Coastal Caretaker
The beaches, salt marshes, parks, and other coastal access sites in Massachusetts offer tremendous opportunities for recreation and relaxation. However, these places also serve many other purposes, such as homes for wildlife. For example, the endangered piping plover uses beaches and dunes for nesting sites, heron colonies use islands to raise young, and scallops use salt marshes to spawn. Many of these areas also protect inland locations from storm damage and provide income for people in the tourism, fishing, and shellfishing industries.
Please help to ensure that the coast can serve all these functions and more. To do your part, remember these simple access ethics:
1) Follow directions. Read and respect all signs in coastal areas. Signs give important information about preventing erosion, protecting wildlife, ensuring the safety of other visitors, and reducing negative impacts to the ecosystem and the surrounding community.
2) Watch where you're going. Remember, fences are there for a reason. Usually, they are used to keep people off fragile dune grasses (which help prevent erosion), out of endangered wildlife habitat, or off of private property.
3) Don't litter. Litter is more than an eyesore, it is a safety problem for people and wildlife. Animals can be killed or injured when they become entangled in discarded fishing line, six-pack holders, and other items, or when they swallow plastic bags, balloons, and other trash that they mistake for food. People are also injured by broken glass or rusty metal. So, always dispose of trash properly. Use trash barrels, if they are available and have room; trash placed in overflowing barrels just becomes litter. If you can't dispose of trash at the site properly, take it with you.
4) Clean your plate. Don't leave food behind. It attracts pests, as well as predators that kill endangered coastal species.
5) Give wildlife space. Avoid areas where birds and other wildlife are nesting, raising young, feeding, or resting. Keep pets out of these areas too. Also, be aware of nesting seasons. Many islands and other locations are closed in the spring and early summer to allow birds to successfully hatch and raise their young.
6) Help without harm. Not all sea creatures found on land are in trouble. Seals, for instance, often look stranded when they haul themselves up on land to rest. Baby seals in particular can look abandoned when their mother temporarily leaves them in a safe place and goes off to search for food. Whatever large animal you find, keep at least 150 feet back and never touch or feed it. If you do find a beached whale, dolphin, or sea turtle, call the New England Aquarium's stranding hotline at (617) 973-5247.
7) Live and let live. When beachcombing, leave anything that is still alive where you found it, including snails, shellfish, crabs and other crustaceans, fish, and squid.
8) Don't pick the flowers. Do not step on or collect vegetation, including wildflowers. Plants are important to prevent erosion, and to provide habitat and food for wildlife.
9) Use restrooms and other sanitary facilities. Human waste can cause health problems and lead to beach and shellfish bed closures.
10) Scoop the poop. Clean up pet wastes, which pollute the water, are unsightly, and can be a real problem for barefoot beach walkers.
11) Keep on the right track. Where vehicles are allowed at a site, keep them in designated areas. Do not drive near dunes or vegetation, and keep speeds down.
12) Increase awareness. Teach others how to be responsible at these coastal places. Also, let your friends know how to be good coastal caretakers and remember that children are often the best ambassadors for taking care of the environment.
Most of all, do your best to keep the place the way you found it. This simple approach will help to ensure that others will be able to enjoy the area, and that coastal wildlife will be protected.