IS YOUR BEACH INFECTED? The El Niño season has brought some unusual visitors to the Monterey Bay. Among them is a deadly threat to the entire marine ecosystem. The infection is called nurdles. They are starting to pollute our coastline. Our fish and birds mistake them for larvae and fish eggs. Marine life simply cannot digest them. What’s more? Nurdles adsorb toxins, passing deadly chemicals from one animal to the next until the aftermath is on our plate and in our stomach. You’ve probably seen them before or mistaken them for a pebble, a grain of sand, or even an egg. Nurdles come in many colors, but they are consistently deadly, and not just because they sneak their way into the marine food web from the bottom-up.
WHAT NOW? We urge you to search for them, find them, document them, collect them, and remove them from our coastline. Take pictures. Send your pictures to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your nurdle find on social media using the hashtag #attackofthenurdles. We also encourage you to bring your nurdle bounty to our office. Save Our Shores needs to collect more data and build community awareness so that we can develop an informed solution to slow the #attackofthenurdles.
Save Our Shores’ first nurdle sighting was at the Pajaro Dunes. The find was unprecedented. Since then, nurdles have been popping up at nearly every beach along the Monterey Bay. The word is finally getting out. Central Coast News KION recently interviewed Sophomore Melanie Ortiz at a Save Our Shores educational event with Scotts Valley High School about the problem. “I saw different colored ones like this before but I never really knew what they actually were,” said Ortiz, “I thought they were airsoft pellets.” The verdict is still out to where the nurdles are originating from, but our marine conservation community is working on answers. Strong evidence indicates that they are coming from a cargo ship that lost a few containers carrying nurdles across the Pacific Ocean. Now El Niño swells are washing them ashore. Long Marine Lab oceanographer, Ralphael Kudela, reports that “with the El Niño, we are getting much more water than is typical from further offshore—during normal years the upwelling acts as a sort of barrier keeping that material from beaching…. I’d expect that you will continue to see more debris from further offshore through the winter as the El Nino peaks.” All of which is true. We are finding hundreds of nurdles.
Monterey Bay Nurdles in the News: