This year’s Coastweeks is history, with groups on all three islands cleaning beaches in September and October, but the organizers on Wednesday came up with some how-we-did numbers.
St. John stole the show with the rescue by Gifft Hill School students of a hawksbill turtle hatching at Mary’s Creek. A coordinated effort by V.I. National Park staff and others subsequently launched the hatchling into the ocean.
“Hopefully, it will be returning back to the shores if it is a little girl,” Friends of the Park program manager Audrey Penn said, referring to the fact that turtles usually return to where they were born to lay their eggs.
On St. John, the Friends group organized the annual cleanup. Penn said 175 volunteers removed well over 2,000 pounds of debris from 10 of the island’s beaches.
On St. Thomas, 207 people cleaned up 1,980 pounds of debris from 2.25 miles of shore line. Organizer Christine Settar at UVI’s Marine Advisory program could not be reached for comment but her counterpart on St. Croix, Marcia Taylor, forwarded the St. Thomas data.
On St. Croix, 405 people picked up 3,315 pounds of debris from a little over five miles of shore line. Taylor said the numbers are actually higher, but the teacher in one large group forgot the data sheets used to record what debris is picked up where.
The St. Croix list shows that somebody lost their phone on Frederiksted Beach, a dog kennel at Gallows Bay Beach as well as a suitcase and toilet seat at Lagoon Beach. The list also included 20 “dime” bags used in the sale of drugs found at Princess Beach.
Territory-wide, caps and lids topped the list and accounted for 17.9 percent of all the debris picked up. The total number was 7,311. Second place went to plastic bottles under two liters in size. There were 5,591 of them, totaling 13.3 percent of all the garbage. Food wrappers and containers came in at number three with 9.3 percent of the garbage belonging to that category. Volunteers picked up a total of 3,800 of them.
Beach goers also left behind 1,063 pieces of clothing and shoes.
The beaches are also popular with people who apparently don’t care what they leave behind. In addition to 3,428 glass bottles, 2,704 plastic bags and 2,201 cigarettes and filters, people dropped hundreds of items in other categories like tarps, balloon and pull tabs on the beaches.
They also left behind 113 diapers, 148 cars and car parts, 110 tires, and 50 batteries. Additionally, people disposed of 42 appliances like refrigerators and washers at the beach.
Territory-wide, volunteers also picked up 21 syringes and 22 shotgun shells or wadding.
Coastweeks, called the International Coastal Cleanup in other parts of the country and the world, is sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy. The data gathered helps forge policy decisions across the globe.