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Coastweeks Cleanups on Beaches to Start

Sept. 17, 2004 – The Virgin Islands kicks off its Coastweeks observance on Saturday with beach cleanups across the territory.
The cleanups will continue through Oct. 9.
"It increases awareness about the natural environment and the problems of marine debris," said Marcia Taylor, the marine advisor at the University of the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service on St. Croix.
The event also gives students a chance to gain community service points, according to Lillian Moolenaar, Coastal Zone Management outreach coordinator at the Planning and Natural Resources Department in St. Thomas.
"It teaches them how to be community-minded adults," she said.
While some of the volunteer groups that don gloves, sunscreen and hats to scour the territory's beaches and ocean floor come from dive shops and other adult organizations, most are school groups.
Moolenaar said that some beach cleanups scheduled for Saturday will probably have to be rescheduled due to this week's bad weather.
While the participants do get rid of litter on the beaches and along the shorelines, they also collect data on what types of debris they find. This information is used to influence policy and measures that enhance marine conservation.
According to data from The Ocean Conservancy, which organizes the event, last year 954 Coastweeks participants in the Virgin Islands collected 17,135 pounds of marine debris – a total of 42,755 pieces of debris – from 19 miles of shoreline. Additionally, 24 divers picked up 1,111 items from the ocean floor.
Overall, shoreline and recreational activities such as picnics, festivals and days at the beach account for 81 percent of the debris found at local beaches. Worldwide, the figure stands at 56 percent.
The territory fared better when it came to debris related to smoking. The local figure stood at 10 percent while globally, smoking debris totals 34 percent of all trash collected.
Seven percent of the debris on V.I. beaches comes from cruise ships, commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, and recreational boating. This is similar to the global total of 6 percent.
Caps, lids, glass beverage bottles, plates, and utensils accounted for over one quarter of all the debris collected.
The Ocean Conservancy lists the top ten debris items in its statistics. Caps and lids accounted for 13.8 percent of the total items collected in the Virgin Islands. Glass beverage bottles followed with 11.9 percent.
Cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons made up 11.1 percent.
Plastic beverage bottles account for 11 percent.
Beverage cans made up 8.1 percent, with food wrappers and containers making up 8 percent. Cigarettes and cigarette filters accounted for 7.3 percent. Straws and stirrers 7.1 percent. Bags 5.5 percent and clothing and shoes 2.2 percent.
The Virgin Islands list included 4,851 items considered dangerous to marine life. They included 2,365 bags and much smaller numbers of balloons, crab/lobster/fish traps, fishing line, fishing nets, plastic sheeting/tarps, rope, six-pack holders, strapping bands and syringes.
While The Ocean Conservancy officially calls the event an International Coastal Cleanup, locally it is always referred to as Coastweeks.
If you'd like to participate in Coastweeks, call Taylor at 692-4046, Moolenaar at 774-3320 or Donna Griffin at Planning's Division of Fish and Wildlife. Griffin's number is 775-6762, ext. 113.
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