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Coast Weeks Cleanups Scour V.I. Beaches

Sept. 12, 2005 – The territory has started its annual International Coastal Cleanup, usually referred to locally as Coast Weeks, with a slew of beach cleanups. If you or your group hasn't already scheduled a clean up, call the coordinators listed at the bottom to get one started.
While Saturday is the official day for the event, activities started in the Virgin Islands in early September and will continue into October.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the international event. Last year 55 states and territories participated, and people from nearly 90 nations cleaned up their shores, lakes and rivers.
"While marine debris is a global problem requiring international cooperation, many of its negative impacts are experienced at the local level and require local involvement," Seba Sheavly, who directs the Coastal Cleanup, said in a news release.
The data gathered helps decision makers do something about the problem. "And it increases awareness about the problem," said Coastal Clean Up coordinator Marcia Taylor of the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service.
On St. John, the Friends of V.I. National Park will hold a beach cleanup Saturday. It runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call the Friends at 779-4940 for an assignment.
The Friends will provide trash bags, gloves and tools, while the park staff will remove trash collected from the sites. Organizations and individuals must provide their own transportation to the site and fill out the forms.
The Friends are also encouraging groups to adopt a beach or a trail for an entire year.
On St. Croix, Taylor has lined up several groups from the university and local schools to tackle the island's beaches.
"There's still trash on every beach, but every year we have more and more calls to clean up," Taylor said.
Elizabeth Ban, the marine adviser at UVI's St. Thomas campus, said the amount of litter was less than last year on at least one St. Thomas beach.
The Red Hook Alliance volunteers found less trash at Vessup Beach Sept. 3 than they did the previous year, she said.
"But we found Ziplock bags that drugs usually come in," she said, adding that the Vessup Bay team also saw a lot of caps from plastic water bottles.
In 2004, 939 Coast Weeks participants in the Virgin Islands collected 12,507 pounds of marine debris from seven miles of shoreline, according to data from The Ocean Conservancy, which organizes the event. They gathered a total of 27,900 pieces of debris. Additionally, eight divers picked up 131 pounds of debris from the ocean floor.
Overall, 80 percent of the debris found in the Virgin Islands originated from land-based recreation activities such as picnics, festivals, sports and days at the beach. Worldwide, the figure stands at 61 percent.
The territory fared better when it came to debris related to smoking. The local figure stood at 10 percent while globally, smoking debris totals 21 percent of all debris collected.
Debris that washes up on the beach from off-shore activities accounted for 11 percent of the debris collected during the 2004 cleanup.
The Ocean Conservancy lists the Top Ten Debris Items in its statistics. Caps and lids accounted for 16.7 percent of the total items collected in the Virgin Islands. Glass beverage bottles followed with 11.9 percent.
Cups, plates, forks, knives, and spoons made up 11.8 percent. Glass beverage bottles accounted for 10.3 percent, while those made of plastic made up 9.8 percent of the total.
Food wrappers and containers were 9.3 percent of the total. Beverage cans made up 7.2 percent of all debris collected.
Cigarettes and cigarette filters accounted for 6.3 percent. Straws and stirrers made up 5 percent. Bags comprised 5 percent and clothing and shoes, 2.5 percent.
The Virgin Islands' list included 4,851 items considered dangerous to marine life. They included 1,402 bags and much smaller numbers of balloons, crab/lobster/fish traps, fishing line, fishing nets, plastic sheeting/tarps, rope, six-pack holders, strapping bands and syringes.
Worldwide, 305,000 people removed over 7.7 million pounds of debris from 11,000 miles of shoreline.
It's not too late to organize a cleanup for your group. Contact coordinators to do so.
Call Ban on St. Thomas at 693-1395 or Lillian Moolenaar at the Planning and Natural Resources Department at 774-3320. On St. Croix, call Taylor at 778-1620. Reach Maize on St. John at 779-4940.

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