Trash-free seas is the theme for this year’s Coastweeks, and organizers plan beach cleanups that will get rid of that trash that finds its way to the ocean. Coastweeks begins in mid-September and runs through the end of October.
“Coastweeks is always important for removing that debris,” Audrey Penn, program manager at the Friends of V.I. National Park, said.
Marcia Taylor at the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service added that water-borne debris causes problems for marine life, impacts human health and affects the territory’s tourism-based economy.
While cleaning up the shorelines is one goal, Taylor said education is another.
“I do think that awareness is increasing. The word is getting out,” Taylor said.
While organizers on all three islands have scheduled events, anyone or group that wants to hold a cleanup is welcome to do so. Penn suggested that people tackle trash in guts or even in their own backyards. However, they should contact organizers to get the tally sheets so what they pick up counts toward the territory’s total.
Events begin Sept. 15 on St. Thomas and St. Croix and Sept. 22 on St. John.
The St. Thomas kick-off will be held on Hassel Island from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 15 thanks to efforts by the park, the St. Thomas Historical Trust, the Audubon Society, and the St. Thomas/St. John Chapter of the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators.
“All the debris from Charlotte Amalie Harbor, the cruise ships and off the waterfront ends up at Hassel Island,” Penn said.
Check in for the Hassel Island cleanup will be at 8:45 a.m. at the Frenchtown marina.
The first 50 people registered will be transported free to Hassel Island aboard the vessel Sea Tow for the cleanup. Volunteers will be required to sign waivers to participate in the cleanup.
Volunteers will clean up Hassel Island until 11 a.m., then the St. Thomas Historic Trust will host a guided tour of the newly opened active trail.
On St. Croix, the Coastweeks activities include a cleanup at the Frederiksted Pier. It runs from 9 a.m. until noon Sept. 16. There will also be an underwater clean-up by CRABBS Dive Club. Students from St. Croix Educational Complex will do a shoreline cleanup in the immediate area around the pier.
There will also be a beach cleanup Sept. 15 at Columbus Landing, Salt River with Good Hope School coordinating this event. Taylor said additional cleanups are scheduled for Sept. 16 at Dorsch Beach by a group from UVI and on Sept. 29 at Southgate by St. Croix Environmental Association.
The St. John Coastweeks kick-off activities will take place Sept. 22 at Drunk Bay. Penn said it begins at 9:30 a.m. to allow people coming from St. Thomas to participate. Transportation from Cruz Bay is available, but those planning to use it must contact Penn in advance.
Volunteers at all events should wear sunscreen, a hat, closed-toe shoes and clothing that can get wet as cleaning takes place along the shoreline. Bring plenty of water, preferably in a reusable bottle along with a snack. Trash bags, gloves and data cards will be provided to collect and tally items collected during the clean-up.
Coastweeks began 27 years ago when the Ocean Conservancy saw the need to bring attention to the world’s coasts. Volunteers document what they pick up to help pinpoint problems and develop solutions.
“Trash jeopardizes the health of our ocean, our economy and people,” David Pittenger, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, said. “Sometimes there are uncontrollable events – like the Japan tsunami – that add to the larger problem of marine debris. That’s why it’s important to tackle what’s preventable.”
The Ocean Conservancy keeps tabs on what’s collected during Coastweeks from locations around the world. Called the International Coastal Cleanup in other locations, volunteers around the world picked up 9.4 million pounds of trash during the 2011 Coastweeks.
In the Virgin Islands, a total of 795 people picked up 7,429 pounds of trash from 571 miles of shoreline in during the 2011 Coastweeks.
On St. Thomas, caps and lids topped the list of items picked up at 3,244 pieces. Plastic beverage bottles were second with volunteers picking up 1,940 of them. Glass bottles followed at 1,201.
Caps and lids also topped the St. Croix list at 3,162 pieces. Like St. Thomas, plastic beverage bottles were second with 2,227 pieces picked up. Food wrappers and containers came in third with volunteers picking up 2,024 of them.
Plastic beverage bottles topped St. John’s list with 1,424 of them getting picked up. Cigarettes and cigarette filters came in second at 1,082 pieces. Caps and lids were third with volunteers picking up 905 of them.
Register in advance for the Hassel Island clean up with Olivia Robles or Kysha Wallace at 777-3073. For more information on the St. Croix activities, contact Taylor at 692-4046. Call Penn at 779-4940 to schedule a ride, to plan a cleanup on St. John or for more information.