Coastweeks, the 28th annual clean up of beaches around the world sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, begins Sept. 21 in the Virgin Islands and will run through the end of October.
“Trash is a big problem, and without these cleanups it has devastating effects on our marine ecosystems,” said Karen Jarvis, program manager at Friends of V.I. National Park on St. John.
Marcia Taylor, University of the Virgin Islands’ V.I. Marine Advisory Service on St. Croix, said it’s hard to quantify whether or not the Coastweeks cleanups impact the beaches in the long run because data isn’t collected in that manner. However, she said she believes it affects the students who participate. She said they tell her all the time how angry it makes them when they see someone throw trash on the ground as they’re busy picking it up.
Internationally, during last year’s clean up, volunteers picked up trash equal to the weight of 10 jumbo jets, the Ocean Conservancy indicated in a press release.
“This demonstrates the more people who come out, the bigger an impact we can have,” Nicholas Mallos, marine debris specialist of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, said. “Seeing the trash along beaches and waterways makes you realize: just because trash is thrown away and out of sight doesn’t mean it’s out of our ocean. And the continuous need for the cleanup indicates we’re not winning the battle upstream. The cleanup is a starting point and just one way people can help fight the problem of ocean trash.”
Residents as well as tourists are welcome to initiate their own cleanups or participate in any already organized.
"Just show up,” Taylor said, noting that the organizers will have enough gloves and bags on hand to accommodate extra people.
Those organizing their own should do so through coordinators on each island so they can get data collection cards.
“It’s not just about cleaning beaches but getting information about what’s being collected,” Taylor said.
That information helps guide policies throughout the world. Tennant said it helps the Ocean Conservancy target specific companies whose products end up on the world’s beaches.
“Coca-Cola has a lot of waste,” said Kayla Tennant, a UVI graduate student organizing Coastweeks events on St. Thomas. Coca-Cola is a major sponsor of Coastweeks at the international level, she added.
It’s also about education, and Taylor said she’s available to groups and schools to explain what marine debris does to the environment.
St. Croix kicks off Coastweeks on Sept. 21 with a series of cleanups that include Frederiksted Pier, Columbus Landing, Haypenny Beach, and Dorsch Beach. Taylor said other cleanups are planned for later in September and October.
On St. Thomas, cleanups are planned for Sept. 21 at Brewer’s Beach and Sept. 28 at Tutu, Mandahl and Hull Bay. Tennant is looking for paddle boarders and people with power boats to clean up Inner and Outer Brass islands.
On Oct. 12, a cleanup is planned for Fortuna Beach. Oct. 19 is the date for a cleanup at Vessup Beach. The last Coastweeks Clean Up on St. Thomas is slated for Oct. 26 but Tennant said she’s yet to pick the beach.
Jarvis said that while people clean up beaches on St. John throughout the year, Coastweeks gets people out to more remote beaches, such as Drunk Bay. The Friends group will host a cleanup at that beach Sept. 28. Those who want to take part can meet at the Salt Pond parking lot at 9 a.m., and are advised to bring a hat, sunscreen, snack, and water.
Across the territory, cigarettes and filters topped the list of items found at the beach during the 2012 clean up. St. Thomas volunteers picked up 381 of them. On St. Croix, the number stood at 406. St. John’s tally hit 321.
Plastic sheeting and tarps came in second on St. Thomas at 337 pieces, but on St. Croix and St. John, the number two spot went to ropes with 304 pieces of it picked up on St. Croix and 126 pieces on St. John.
A look at the data shows that on St. Croix, volunteers found 40 appliances, such as refrigerators and washers. On St. Thomas the number of appliances stood at seven. On St. John, only two appliances were found at beach.
St. Croix also topped the tire list at 93 while St. Thomas had seven and St. John, four.
St. Thomas had the most syringes found at 34. St. Croix had seven and St. John, two.
In 2012 on St. Thomas, 314 volunteers cleaned 5,000 pounds of trash off 5.2 miles of beaches. St. Croix’s had 297 volunteers who picked up 4,500 pounds of trash off 3.8 miles of beaches. On St. John, 116 volunteers came out to clean up 963 pounds of trash off 7.8 miles of beaches.
Jarvis said many St. John beaches still need adoption by people willing to do periodic cleanups throughout the year. They include Maho Bay and Francis Bay, which both need adoption by dive companies. Others are Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay, Lameshur, Newfound Bay, Europa Bay, Friis Bay, Mennebeck Bay, Whistling Cay, East End Bay, Privateer Bay, and Leduck Island.
“These beaches need people to care for them,” Jarvis said.
Taylor can be reached at 1-340-692-4046, Jarvis at 1-340-779-4940 and Tennant at 1-340-998-5797.
he k Bay.hat while people adopt beaches on St. John throughout the year, Coastweeks gets people out to more remote beaches like