PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Judy Rogero was taking some photos on Lido Beach when she noticed a troubling sight.
The nature photographer had stumbled upon something that may best illustrate our big problem with plastic in Tampa Bay: a tiny skimmer latching onto a pair of sunglasses with its beak.
Rogero has long been passionate about the issue of pollution in our oceans and on our beaches. She captured another photo on St. Pete Beach, showing a skimmer with plastic rubbish in its beak.
“What happens is, people just drop their trash. They go to the beach, they take their chairs, their little coolers and all of that. They throw their wrappings on the ground. If they break something, they just leave it laying there. It’s ridiculous,” she said.
According to Rogero, the skimmers were in a nesting area that was protected.
“They’re protected birds. They go out underneath the ropes and toward the water to cool down. They pick up crap and bring it back to their nesting area. You can’t even clean it up, because you can’t get inside those boundaries. The [trash] wears down into little pieces, and then they swallow it,” she explained.
Rogero hopes her photographs will serve as a wake-up call to Tampa Bay beachgoers who may not fully understand plastic’s impact on the environment.
“They need to be aware of the effects that their littering has on our wildlife. We’re supposed to be the good stewards. We’re supposed to be the protectors of our earth and our wildlife and we’ve become their worst enemy,” Rogero said. “We have turtles nesting on the beaches, and you leave your chairs, your trash, your umbrellas, your broken toys on your beaches and the little turtles can’t make it down to the water when they lave their nesting areas.”
Between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year, according to figures published in the journal Science in 2015.