Deluges of rain from the tail end of Otto forced Coastweeks organizers to cancel numerous events, but despite the setback, the annual coastal cleanup held in September and October went well, organizers said.
Christine Settar, marine stewardship coordinator at the University of the Virgin Islands, saw the rains as a learning opportunity for those involved because the heavy rains sent contaminants downhill into the bays. This meant that some cleanups had to be cancelled.
“People were afraid to get near the water because of the nasty stuff in the water,” she said.
The weather also impacted the cleanup on St. John. Audrey Penn, program manager at the Friends of V.I. National Park, said that the Coastweeks teams couldn’t even get to Brown Bay because the entire beached washed away. And it was a similar story at Drunk Bay, where the salt pond adjacent to the beach flooded. This prevented cleanup participants from even reaching Drunk Bay.
Marcia Taylor at UVI’s Marine Advisory Service on St. Croix pointed out that groups that cleaned up beaches after the storms removed various pieces of debris from the water.
In particular, she said that a group of 42 students from St. Croix Educational Complex and 24 divers from the CRABBS Dive Club worked together at the Frederiksted Pier. The divers pulled up items and the students catalogued them.
“They brought up half a boat,” Taylor said.
She said the enthusiasm of the divers rubbed off on the students, who also learned lots of new information such as how shackles on boats operate.
According to Taylor, big items like the boat pieces didn’t make it to the data tally sheet because they didn’t fit into the data sheet format.
Across the territory, the Coastweeks data shows that 900 people cleaned 20.6 miles of coast line. They picked up 7,981 pounds of debris along the shore. A total of 57 people did underwater cleanup, all on St. Croix. They brought up 715 pounds of debris.
This breaks down to 368 people picking up 3,189 pounds of debris from St. Thomas beaches. On St. John, the numbers came in at 177 people and 2,255 pounds of debris. St. Croix had 355 people pick up 2,537 pounds of debris.
Penn urged beach goers to continue the work done during Coastweeks by picking up debris when they see it.
“It’s Coastweeks all year round,” she said.
Coastweeks is a worldwide event sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy.