Vineyarders take out Cuttyhunk’s beach trash

The leader of a Vineyard beach cleanup team says she learned valuable lessons from the trip.


Vineyard volunteers the Beach BeFrienders, who clean up Island beaches monthly, traveled to Cuttyhunk last week to help clear fishing gear debris from the tiny island’s beaches.

The outing lasted all week, and was organized by the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Debris & Plastics Program, as a follow-up to a similar cleanup at Cuttyhunk last year.

The center is a Provicetown-based nonprofit group that works to preserve and protect marine ecosystems through research, education and policy initiatives.

Local students and artists pitched in for the cleanup, the spoils of which were made available to community members. Beach BeFrienders leader Laurisa Rich said that she took home some weathered pieces from a lobster trap, and the scalloped bottom of an antique bottle.

“We got here Monday morning,” Rich told The Times after arriving home from Cuttyhunk on Saturday. She said she enjoyed the experience. “We were cooked for all week.”

Rich said the cleanup involved clearing beach trash that the plastics program left behind last year. Participants also cleared away out-of-use lobster traps, lobster buoys, and 2,000 pounds of rope.

Rich says that after attending the cleanup, she has ideas for the future of Beach BeFrienders. “The collecting of data is a really important part of [last week’s effort]. It’s something Beach BeFrienders hasn’t yet wrapped our heads around.”

She adds that collecting data on the types of trash found on-Island could help to inform local environmental policies.

When reached by The Times, plastics program director Laura Ludwig said the trash haul had not been fully inventoried, but that she did see a significant improvement from last year.

“I already know it to be less than half of what we collected last year,” she said. “We removed 16,000 pounds last year but could not quite get it all. This year is just cleaning up the last major piles of lobster traps, which were much smaller than what we tackled in 2023.”

Ludwig said this year’s trash will be inventoried to produce a “top ten” most common items. 

The center’s plastics program received a $2 million grant last fall from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to join the New England Regional Fishing Gear Response and Removal Team, which addresses discarded or out-of-use fishing gear in the region. Ludwig said her team could expand to the Vineyard someday.

“Programs could technically reach the shores or waters off Martha’s Vineyard, but the primary area is within the Gulf of Maine, where all the partners conduct their work,” Ludwig said. 

“My interest in working with the islands off Cape Cod is increasing, however, given what we’ve been doing here on Cuttyhunk. I have never worked on MV, or even visited it, but am looking forward to doing both if it makes sense for all parties,” she added. 

This summer, the Agricultural Fair will include a category for upcycled art, and art made from trash found on Vineyard Beaches is fair game.


  1. That’s interesting: they were cleaning up piles of lobster 🦞 traps, two years in a row. Another sad commentary about the demise of the lobsters 🦞.

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