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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Sept. 23, 2002 – Along with hurricane season comes Coast Weeks, The Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. This year, Coast Weeks started in mid-September and will run through mid-October.
Across the territory, children and adults have been busy picking up the trash that blows in from the sea or is left behind by people using the beaches.
Marcia Taylor, marine advisor at the University of the Virgin Islands, organizes Coast Weeks events on St. Croix. Taylor said she's been overwhelmed by the response. "Maybe there's more interest in the environment," she said.
Teachers "are really getting into it," Taylor said, using the graphed results to help with math education.
Taylor has lined up more than 400 people to clean Dorsch Beach, Haypenny Beach, Frederiksted Beach, Columbus Landing, Judith's Fancy, Altoona Lagoon and Christiansted Harbor on St. Croix.
On St. Thomas and St. John, Donna Griffin, an environmental specialist at the Planning and Natural Resources Department, has organized cleanups at Lindqvist Beach, Brewers Bay, Dorothea Bay, Lind Point and Cruz Bay Beach.
Griffin's prize group was from Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, which sent 220 students to clean up the road from the V.I. National Guard Armory to the Red Hook Salt Pond. They picked up close to 5,000 pounds of garbage.
"They sorted it out and got 1,200 pounds of recyclables," Griffin said, for which the group should net about $300 for its efforts.
Griffin said that beach cleaners tell her they're seeing less trash than in previous years. "But we're still seeing a lot of diapers, plastic forks and dime bags," she said, referring to the small bags associated with marijuana.
Her cleaners also pick up lots of used condoms, particularly on isolated beaches like Lindqvist.
"It tells just what's going on on the beaches," Griffin said.
Last year, 1,000 people across the territory picked up 15,495 pounds of trash long 18.2 miles of coast.
The results show just what people leave behind on the territory's beaches.
Gregg Schmidt, media coordinator at the Ocean Conservancy's Washington, D.C. office, said glass beverage bottles topped the list. Beach cleaners picked up 4,959 of them.
Plastic bottles were next, with 4,332 picked up. Cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons followed with a total of 3,910 items. Cleaners picked up 3,502 caps and lids, followed by 3,422 bags and food wrappers.
Beverage cans came next, with a total of 2,649. Cigarettes and filters accounted for 2,381 pieces, with straws and stirrers numbering 1,390. More than 1,200 pieces of rope were found.
Fast food containers rounded out the top 10 with 974 pieces.
The items found on the beaches disturb Taylor.
"The whole mentality is disposable," she said, adding that it doesn't take much effort to use a canvas bag instead of a plastic bag or a reusable container instead of a disposable one for beach picnics.
And while the debris is unsightly, it also harms animals. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish – one of their favorite foods. Fishing line or other debris that is wrapped around fins or flippers can cause circulation loss and eventual amputation as the animal grows, or worse – strangulation.
"Some may think that a bit of trash thrown into the water isn't such a big deal, but even a small amount of trash can mean life or death to sea turtles, birds and fish," said Roger Rufe, Ocean Conservancy president.
"Some things, such as discarded hooks or broken glass, can seriously injure barefooted beachgoers," he added.
The Virgin Islands beach clearers are part of a team with three-quarters of a million people located around the world.
Last year, more than 750,000 volunteers combed over 12,000 miles of beaches, rivers and lakes, above and below the water line, hauling in over 12.5 million pounds of trash.
"Each year the number of volunteers grows as people realize the problem of marine debris and become active in their communities, searching for workable solutions," said Rufe. "With over half of America's population living within 50 miles of the coast, the problems caused by marine debris are right in their backyard."
To date, people in more than 117 countries and all 55 U.S. states and territories have participated in the cleanup, helping to rid their shorelines, oceans, rivers, lakes and other waterways of tons of marine debris.
Volunteers in the International Coastal Cleanup record information about the trash they collect on detailed data cards. The cards are compiled, analyzed and tracked year by year, revealing patterns in marine debris in a region or country.
"Cleanup data reports have influenced public policy on waste management, prompted legislation, and convinced individuals, organizations and communities to reexamine their waste handling practices," Rufe said.
This is the 17th year volunteers around the world have cleaned up coasts.
Griffin said this was the territory's 11th year of participation.

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