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Cruz Bay
Thursday, February 2, 2023


Sept. 14, 2001 – Beach cleaners needed. No special skills needed. Everyone can apply.
If you fit this description, you're welcome and wanted to sign up as a volunteer for Coast Weeks, the annual worldwide beach cleanup project sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, formerly the Center for Marine Conservation.
Coast Weeks starts Saturday, with numerous beach cleanups already organized for that day, and continues through Oct. 6. Volunteers will be picking up used paper plates, cups, cigarette butts, diapers and other debris left on the territory's beaches.
"Most of our debris is land based," explained Marcia Taylor, marine adviser at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix. Taylor and two St. Thomas colleagues, Lillian Moolenaar of the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Coastal Zone Management office, and Donna Griffin at the department's Fish and Wildlife Division, have organized cleanups throughout the territory during the three-week period.
All three marveled that some people don't just get it when it comes to keeping beaches clean. In one memorable event a few years ago, PNR staff and youth groups had worked for hours to get the Vessup Bay beach on the East End of St. Thomas into spic-and-span condition. At the end of the following weekend, the beach was once again so littered with party debris that it looked as if the crews had never been there.
"It's the adults," Griffin said, noting that educational programs are convincing children not to litter.
Moolenaar wondered what it would take to instill pride in Virgin Islands residents. She also called for enforcement of the territory's litter laws.
While most of the beach cleanups will take place on the territory's shores, several will occur underwater, where volunteer divers will pick up the flotsam and jetsam that washes off the beaches into the water or floats in from elsewhere.
According to Ocean Conservancy statistics, last year, 27 volunteers across the territory extracted 6,225 pounds of debris from the water. And 593 people scoured 12.3 miles of beaches, retrieving 5,705 pounds of litter — a total of nearly six tons of trash that should never have been put there in the first place.
While the refuse is visually offensive to humans, it can be fatal to marine life. For example, sea creatures can "get entangled in fishing line or eat it," Taylor said. The same is true of plastic bags and beverage six-pack plastic collars.
A part of the Coast Weeks process is keeping statistics on the garbage the volunteers pick up. The Ocean Conservancy supplies the forms, and beach cleaners themselves enter the data. Taylor said the information is utilized to track trends and help legislators craft laws to curb marine pollution.
For more information about the Coast Weeks/International Coastal Cleanup project, see the Ocean Conservancy web site.
If you want to volunteer on St. Croix, call Taylor at 692-4046. If you can help on St. Thomas or St. John, call Moolenaar at 774-3320 or Griffin at 775-6762.

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