The reopening of Sunshine State beaches gave residents who were itching to get back to their beach bum ways an escape from the boredom of staying home. But when Florida beach shores at Cocoa Beach reopened two weeks ago, it wasn’t just crowds of people that ended up on the sands, but their trash too. Crews picked up more than 12,000 pounds of garbage the weekend of May 1, and now, law enforcement is cracking down on littering laws.
Bryan Bobbitt, executive director of Keep Brevard Beautiful, told CNN that 297 bags of trash were collected, amounting to about 40 pounds each, totaling nearly 12,000 pounds.
In response to the surge of garbage, the Cocoa Beach Police Department is reminding beachgoers of the existing $250 littering fine.
Cocoa Beach Detective Sgt. Thomas Cooper also told CNN that both uniformed and uncover cops will be patrolling the beaches with their eyes peeled for offenders.
The job of citing someone for littering is more complicated than it might seem, however, as officers have to prove the person legally left the trash. "The officers are stuck unless they see who left the trash behind,” Cooper said in the CNN report.
Littering the sandy shores does no one any good, especially Florida’s wildlife and endangered sea turtles. Obstacles like trash, chairs, and light pollution can prevent turtles from finding their way to the sea, decreasing their potential rate of survival.
The number of people flocking to Cocoa Beach shorelines after being closed has been overwhelming according to a quote provided by Bobbitt to CNN; current visitor numbers rival some of the busiest days for the beach, including Memorial Day and Fourth of July Weekend.
Other Florida beaches also had a rocky reopening, including the City of Naples which reclosed their beaches after a wave of large crowds filled the waterfront, and visitors failed to follow social distancing guidelines.
Visitors who catch someone in the act of leaving trash at Cocoa Beach are encouraged to report the incident to local police by calling 321-868-3251 with a description of the offender and the location littered.
*Cover photos used for illustrative purposes