Talking with our Tourists: A Marine Debris Awareness Initiative

Poster that says "Skip the Straw".

This project is developing marine debris messaging and outreach activities targeted to tourists visiting South Bass Island, Ohio.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention Grant

Region: Great Lakes

Project Dates: August 2018 - March 2022

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA MDP Prevention Grant, The Ohio State University and Ohio Sea Grant, along with numerous community partners are tackling marine debris prevention with visitors to South Bass Island and the village of Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Community partners include: the Jet Express ferries, Miller Boat Line, Island Transportation and Put-in-Bay Tour Train Operations, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, Put-in-Bay Township Park District at the Scheeff East Point Nature Preserve park location, Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center, The Ohio State University’s Stone Lab and Aquatic Visitors Center, The Boardwalk Family of Restaurants, The Keys restaurant, Put-in-Bay Yacht Club, the Ohio Clean Marinas Program, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

What is the project and why is it important?
More than 800,000 people visit South Bass Island every year, which can generate a significant amount of marine debris around the island and in Lake Erie. Single-use beverage containers, straws, and cigarettes are some of the top trash items found during beach clean-ups. Focusing on preventing these items from entering the environment through education and changing behaviors of tourists will benefit both the natural environment and the tourism industry by keeping island beaches and natural areas free from debris.

Tourists visiting the island will receive information through multiple outlets. Recorded messages and signage at ferry terminals, on ferries and in shuttles and taxis will focus on the hazards of improperly disposed plastics and simple actions visitors can take to prevent those problems. Visitors will be exposed to more in depth information at well known tourist sites which will feature interactive exhibits, signage, and hands-on activities. Messaging on menus and table tents at partner restaurants, along with a “skip the straw” campaign, will help raise awareness about issues caused by plastic straws. Participating restaurants will not provide straws to guests unless requested, and will receive training to answer questions about the campaign. Lastly, boaters visiting the island will be taught how to properly manage trash when out on the water in collaboration with yacht clubs and the Ohio Clean Marinas Program. Boater giveaways will specifically target their waste management needs with a clean boating kit.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.