Surfers and Paddlers Protest Ocean Polluters in Florida
by Greg Gordon
On September 9th, 2006, the Surfrider Foundation held its 3rd Annual Paddle for Clean Water at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. Over 50 volunteers arrived early morning Saturday for coffee and treats courtesy of Sunseed Food Co-op. Then at 10 a.m., everyone pitched in to help clean the beach and garbage bags made from recycled plastic were given out to the beachgoers awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.
A minute after the shuttle left the pad, the watermen and women took to the waves in their multicolored crafts. Members of the local Spacecoast Paddlers helped to carry out a large sign that read “Pump, don’t Dump”, referring to the local gaming ship’s twice daily practice of dumping thousands of gallons of partially treated sewage. “I can’t believe it’s still legal to do that,” remarked one spectator when told the ships only had to be three miles from the coast to dump.
If the Clean Oceans Bill, sponsored by Rep. Bob Allen and Sen. Mike Haridopolus, is passed, it would be made illegal for boats running “cruises to nowhere” to dump any sewage within 12 miles from Florida’s coastline. What does that mean to the average Joe, who maybe comes to the beach twice a year? “Happy tourists and locals that support our economy,” answers Greg Gordon, who led the local Surfrider chapter in 2005. “Tourists want to come to clean beaches and oceans to swim in. The locals also want clean oceans because it’s their backyard playground, and the fishermen rely on a healthy fish population. The average Joe gets to enjoy the entertainment options for tourists, cheaper fresh seafood, customers for his business, and the personal satisfaction that his grandchildren may still see a loggerhead turtle come to lay eggs on the beach in June, or one of the 360 northern right whales left on the planet to swim by the Canaveral Jetty in December.”
On this Saturday, a manatee greeted the paddlers on the way back to the beach. The group’s shouts of “Pump, don’t Dump!” to the crews aboard the Suncruz and Sterling Casino ships may have aroused its interest. Just outside of the breaking waves, everyone made a circle of solidarity and a prayer was said for the victims of 9/11, the soldiers fighting overseas, and Steve Irwin. The participants left the water sharing a feeling of unity with their surroundings, and a desire to protect an ocean that has taken care of them throughout their lives.