Surfrider is an organization where one person can make a big impact to help protect the coast. When two or more people team up, the results can be amazing. Juli Marciel and Shannon Shoup with the Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter are a great example of volunteers working together to solve problems.
Juli and Shannon are regular leaders of monthly Surfrider beach cleanups who are seeking out solutions for the top-littered items in addition to cleaning them up off the beach and nearby areas. Cigarette butts are the top item collected at Ventura beach cleanups so Juli and Shannon started a local Hold On To Your Butt program to tackle the issue. They worked with community partners to purchase and install dozens of outdoor ashcans, along with promoting educational materials that have been well received in the community. Juli and Shannon also were among the first to notice a new type of plastic litter on local beaches in the summer of 2015. After some research, they concluded the litter was from fireworks at the local county fair. They worked with fair officials and the fireworks company to significantly decrease the plastic litter in 2016 and they have a goal of zero litter in 2017.
Find out more about Juli Marciel and Shannon Shoup!
Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?
Juli: I have been volunteering for Surfrider since August of 2011 When I first began volunteering I had limited knowledge of the fact that everything we do in our daily activities has such a profound effect on our ocean and marine and wildlife. The more I learned, the more I wanted to do something to help stop harmful behaviors and encourage others to become aware and involved. I have always lived near the ocean, It is an integral part of my life. I want to do all that I can to reduce or eliminate those activities that harm it.
Shannon: I became more involved with my local chapter after moving back to Ventura a few years ago. I am involved because I feel a sense of responsibility to protect and defend what I love, and our beaches and ocean are at the top of my list. My family loves the ocean and my dogs make sure I get them to the beach at least once a day!
Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?
Juli: Beach erosion at Surfer's Point has been addressed by our Chapter with the Surfer's Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project. Phase 1 was completed in 2011 and has been very successful. Surfrider volunteers continue to maintain this area on a regular basis. Our chapter is currently working on implementing Phase II of this Project, which would protect the beach down coast of the Point toward the Ventura Promenade. The Matilija Dam Removal Project is also supported by our chapter to remove this obsolete dam and release the millions of tons of sediment being held back by the dam. Our monthly beach clean ups, Ocean Friendly Gardens implementations, reducing or eliminating firework debris on beaches and in our ocean, and our Hold On To Your Butts campaign are all working to reduce and/or eliminate the pollutants and trash that are so very damaging to our ocean, waves and beaches.
Shannon: We have a lot of significant local issues in Ventura; namely the Surfers' Point Managed Shoreline Retreat, a project designed to protect the beach and surf break at The Point. Then there is the Matilija Dam Ecosystem Restoration project which Paul Jenkin has been working on tirelessly for over a decade. We also have the same issues that plague most coastal towns such as our beaches and oceans being littered with plastic debris, cigarette butts, etc.
Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?
Juli: Co-chairing our Rise Above Plastics committee, co-leading beach clean ups, co-chairing our Hold On To Your Butt campaign, working with other Surfrider volunteers to reduce, by approximately 90% the plastics and wires in fireworks that are set off over the beach and ocean during the Ventura County Fair, tabling at various events, and speaking at various events.
Shannon: We have monthly beach clean ups and if I'm in town I make sure I'm there. I like to look at data to determine what the major sources of pollution are in our area. In 2015 and 2016 we saw that we had a major issue with cigarette butt litter despite a no smoking ordinance so Juli and I started to collect targeted data on this type of litter and launched a Hold On To Your Butt (HOTYB) campaign in 2016. Another project I work on is a result of plastic debris I noticed on our beaches and in our ocean in 2015. After some investigation the debris was identified as firework debris from the nightly fireworks that accompany our annual County Fair. Since then I have been active in working with the Ventura County Fair Board and their fireworks vendor to eliminate this plastic from the fireworks used during the Ventura County Annual Fair.
Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?
Juli: It is difficult for me to choose just one answer to this question. On a statewide basis, seeing the plastic bag ban finally take effect was certainly a cause for celebration! Locally, watching our monthly beach clean ups grow in attendance to over 100 people regularly participating and the apparent growing community awareness of the effect trash is having on our ocean, waves, beaches and marine and wildlife is very gratifying. Tabling at various events and speaking to different groups has provided me with the opportunity to see this awareness spreading throughout our community and that is also very rewarding. Having success in working with the Ventura County Fair Board to dramatically reduce the firework debris in 2016 (and hopefully, in years to come) was terrific. Most recently, the response by the community and the City of Ventura to our Hold On To Your Butts campaign, that officially started in September of 2016 (although we started segregating cigarette butts at beach clean ups in June of 2016), has greatly exceeded our hoped for response to this Campaign. The City of Ventura has already installed five HOTYB ashcans in Downtown Ventura. An additional six will be installed Downtown this year and they have committed to installing 34 ashcans in various locations on the Ventura Pier and on the Ventura Promenade over an an area that extends from the Pier to Surfer's Point. Our HOTYB volunteers are also having initial success with community sponsored ashcan being installed at local businesses (three to date). In December of 2016, volunteers recycled over 50,000 cigarette butts through Terracyle that had been collected at beach clean ups and other HOTYB events.
Shannon: The collaboration we have had with the City of Ventura on our HOTYB campaign has been a highlight. Lars Davenport, an Environmental Specialist with the City of Ventura, has been a tireless advocate for what we are working to do and the results have been immediate and meaningful. Our HOTYB committee members are also impressive and I love having this group of people over to my house once a month to talk about the work we're doing.
Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?
Juli: That there are many, many Surfrider activists, the majority of which are volunteers, working on various campaigns to protect our ocean, waves, beaches and marine and wildlife. That the trash and pollutants that are flowing on to our beaches and into our oceans is an overwhelming problem that affects all aspects of our environment. That these pollutants are destroying our ocean, killing our marine and wildlife and have entered our food chain. That if and when a way, or ways, are found to clean up the massive amounts of trash and degraded materials in the ocean that currently exist, it will never be clean until we stop the pollutants and trash from entering into our oceans. That I read recently that even if a way to clean up the trash that is in the ocean was discovered today, and not another piece of trash went into the ocean, it could take 30 years to clean up what is in the ocean now. However, if trash continues to flow into the ocean, in all the ways it does now, even with a process that might be able to clean the ocean, it would be like trying to mop the kitchen floor with the garden hose going full blast on to the floor at the same time. Therefore, we have to stop it at its source. That Surfrider is dedicated to doing all that it can to protect our ocean, waves and beaches and marine and wildlife and I suggest they visit our website and Facebook page for more detailed information about our various campaigns. I also encourage them to sign up for our Newsletter in order to find out about our monthly activities as well as volunteer opportunities to help work towards solving these dire problems.
Shannon: If you have feel a responsibility for protecting our beaches and ocean so that everyone can enjoy them then Surfrider is the place for you. Everyone has a skill and interest that they can share with their local chapter to help further Surfrider's mission.
Q: Why are you a Surfrider coastal defender (or why is being a Surfrider coastal defender important to you)?
Juli: When I was looking for an organization to offer my time to, I chose Surfrider because their mission statement appealed to me. Shortly after I attended my first Surfrider General Meeting. Surfrider's Annual Conference was also held here in Ventura. I attended that Conference and was able to get a very good overview of Surfrider, locally and nationally, and their important work. As a result, I chose to become directly involved with the RAP campaign and the beach clean ups as it was a way for me to have immediate "hands on" involvement. As can be seen by the above, that initial involvement has led to being involved in other Surfrider projects and campaigns. It's been very rewarding to work with like-minded people on the various projects and campaigns, interact with the community to bring more awareness to these matters and to see the growing concern and involvement within the community to take care of our ocean and beaches and improve our environment.
Shannon: I think we need to protect and defend what we love. Especially when what we love is vulnerable and cannot advocate for itself, whether that be a special place, animals, the vulnerable in our population, etc. I'm grateful for organizations like Surfrider and I am fortunate to be involved with my local chapter because it is full of inspiring, smart and courageous people.