Friday, September 18, 2009

Trash on Masonboro Island

From today's Star News, a trash/pollution issue that needs a solution.

Masonboro Island is an 8.4 mile long barrier island between the Intracoastal Waterway (to the west) and the Atlantic Ocean (to the east) that lies between Wrightsville Beach (to the north) and Carolina Beach (to the south). The island is completely undeveloped and is protected as part of the North Carolina Estuarine Research Reserve. You can only reach the island by boat (or if you're daring, by swimming or paddling across Masonboro Inlet or Carolina Beach Inlet).

It is a beautiful place. Check out some pics here. It is home to several endangered bird species and is a nesting beach for loggerhead and green marine turtles. Most often there are very few people there, and you can have miles of perfect beach all to yourself. Camping on Masonboro is great, especially in the late spring or early fall when the mosquitos aren't so bad. However, during the summer holidays (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day), the island is hugely popular with partying boaters. If you've been there during these times, you know... the bay adjacent to Masonboro looks like a boat parking lot. Lately, the parties have been huge and people have been leaving loads of trash on the island.

Questions related to recent class topics:

What are the basic economics behind this environmental problem?

What are some potential solutions? Pros and cons of these?

What categories of value might we need to measure in order to understand the economic value of Masonboro Island?


Anonymous said...

I think we should prohibit anyone from going to masonboro island. The island is (incorrectly) labeled as an estuarine preservation area and, since people are too inconsiderate and irresponsible to recognize this, must be protected from those that threaten its health integrity.

Dr. Peter Schuhmann said...

Dear anonymous poster,

If people were banned, how would we do research on Masonboro? Doesn't this research have value?

Do you really think a complete ban is what is best? If so, how did you reach this conclusion?

Should all things that cause damage to the environment be banned? Or just some of them?

Chris Ragazzo said...

There is no way someone should Ban everyone from using Masonboro. Yes it does get trashed every once in a while but with a total ban of people to the island you really think that much will happen. I would like to see the proof that more wildlife would actually thrive there without human interaction. Besides what about the people who don't trash the island they should not be able to surf and camp because some are inconsiderate. I feel like maybe there should be more of a police that checks every night to see if there are camp fires raging or people setting off fireworks.

Tyler Nagelvoort said...

I definitely don't think banning people from the island is the solution, excluding the holidays, the beach is fairly well maintained throughout the year.
A solution would be to get an economist to find out the value of the island, for tourism and to account for the potential research that can be done on the island.
Once this value(which I suspect is quite a bit) is determined there can be an effective push to obtain government financing for littering regulation and regular clean up crews on the island.

Anonymous said...

As an avid visitor to Masonboro to surf and camp, I would be extremely disappointed to see the island banned from using. There is tremendous economic value associated with the island. There is ecosystem service value (the barrier island protects inland communities from tropical storms and hurricanes and is a nesting ground for turtles), extractive use value (fishing), and non extractive use value (surfing, camping, bird watching).

I also believe that banning people from using Masonboro is not the best action. The issue with Masonboro is that when partiers pack the island on the holiday weekends, there is no incentive to dispose of trash properly (take it back with them and dispose). It is far more costly for them to leave all of the trash on their boat than dumping it on the beach. This is a tough situation that does not seem to have a clear cut solution. An idea would be to hire Wildlife officers, or some other agency, to monitor the area and prohibit boaters from littering. Enforcing this with strict fines would encourage most people to take their trash back with them. This measure would be very costly and could potentially deter boaters from returning for future holidays.
-Andrew S.