Coast Weeks in the U.S. Virgin Islands will kick off Saturday morning with a beach cleanup at John Brewers Bay on St. Thomas and at Southgate on St. Croix, the first in a two-month-long series of weekend events in the territory.
Organizers are counting on volunteers to participate in in the kick-off beach clean-up, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon. Clean-up supplies and water will be provided to volunteers and no advance sign up is required.
Coast Weeks — or the International Coastal Cleanup — is a nationwide effort coordinated by The Ocean Conservancy. Hosted in the territory by the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, a division within the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies program working with the USVI community to raise awareness about natural resources and foster environmental stewardship.
“We encourage all ages to take part in Coast Weeks,” said Lois C. Rivera of the UVI Public Relations Office. “It’s a perfect opportunity for children to learn to respect our environment and to keep it clean.”
Rivera said all volunteers should wear appropriate footwear, such as sneakers. She also encouraged participants to walk with a reusable water bottle.
The St. Thomas VIMAS office is headed by Howard Forbes Jr. Forbes, who helps promote education and awareness about environmental and marine-related issues and concerns within the Virgin Islands community.
Forbes said plans are set to mobilize scores of volunteers expected to lend a hand at Saturday’s beach clean-up. This initiative is being held in commemoration of the Ocean Conservancy’s 34th International Coastal Cleanup. This year’s theme is “Turn the Tide on Trash – Every Tiny Piece Matters.”
“We are encouraging the Virgin Islands community to make a commitment pledge to help reduce their plastic footprint,” said Forbes. “Even if you are not able to attend a cleanup event, you can still do your part by making a pledge to remove simple single-use plastics from your life such as straws or bags,” he added. Interested people can take the pledge online.
In addition to removing unsightly debris, these clean-ups also assist VIMAS with data collection that identifies the various types and amount of trash commonly found on USVI’ beaches.
At last year’s cleanup, approximately 24,000 pieces of trash weighing a total of 3,500 pounds were removed from territory’s coastlines. Common debris items included plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, and cigarette butts.
The International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer effort on behalf of ocean and waterway health. According to materials provided by the organization: “Ocean and waterway trash ranks as one of the most serious pollution problems choking our planet. Far more than an eyesore, a rising tide of marine debris threatens human health, wildlife, communities and economies around the world. The ocean faces many challenges, but trash should not be one of them. Ocean trash is entirely preventable, and data you collect are part of the solution.”
Sponsors of this year’s event include Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, the Department of Tourism, and USVI Coca-Cola.
Following the kick-off cleanups, the next Coast Weeks events will be:
– 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Sept. 29, at Coki Point. An underwater diving cleanup will also be part of this event.
Additional clean-ups are scheduled for Oct. 5 at Red Hook Salt Pond, Oct. 12 in Frenchtown, and October 13 at Bolongo Bay.
On St. Croix, clean ups are planned for Dorsh Beach and Altona Lagoon, but the schedule has not been finalized.