On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) will mobilize scores of volunteers for its annual Coast Weeks beach cleanup. This initiative is being held in observance of the Ocean Conservancy’s 34th International Coastal Cleanup being celebrated under the theme “Turn the Tide on Trash – Every Tiny Piece Matters.”
These annual beach cleanups serve to assist the Marine Advisory Service with data collection as it works to better understand what types of trash are commonly found on Virgin Islands’ beaches and how much.
This year’s event will see volunteers beginning their cleanup efforts at John Brewers Bay and then proceeding to other beaches.
While traditionally the international event is recognized on the third Saturday in September, the Marine Advisory Service will extend its activities well into October.
St. Thomas beach cleanups scheduled to date include:
Saturday, Sept. 21 – Brewers Bay
Saturday, Sept. 29 – Coki Point Beach (underwater and land-based cleanup)
Saturday, Oct. 5 – Red Hook Salt Pond
St. Croix beach clean ups scheduled to date include:
Saturday, Sept. 21 – Southgate Beach
Saturday, Sept. 21 – Dorsch Beach
Saturday, Sept. 21 – Altona Lagoon
A more detailed schedule will be developed in the upcoming weeks.
“The annual Coastweeks events have been happening in the territory for a little over 30 years with the intent to not only to remove debris from our coasts but to collect data on the types of debris and quantity,” said Howard Forbes Jr., St. Thomas coordinator.
Highlights from last year’s cleanup events show that approximately 24,000 pieces of trash, which amounted to 3,500 pounds, were removed from V.I. coastlines. Some of the common debris items collected included: plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers and cigarette butts.
“The V.I. Waste Management Authority partners with the UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, Coast Weeks Kick-Off Cleanup,” said Melody Rames, public affairs officer of Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. “We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful regions on the planet. As such, every person living in the Virgin Islands has a responsibility to do their part to protect, clean, maintain and preserve our paradise so we can leave an enduring legacy for generations to come.”
The public is encouraged to participate in the Coast Weeks activities. Clean-up supplies and water will be provided for volunteers. “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 said. Interested persons can take the pledge at https://www.cleanseas.org/pledge.
For the first time, Coca-Cola has joined the Marine Advisory Service in sponsoring the local initiative. “Coca-Cola in USVI is proud to partner with the University of the Virgin Islands on this year’s coastal cleanup activities,” said Hugo Torres Vasquez, general manager of USVI Coca-Cola. “We are committed to reducing marine debris and will continue to collaborate on meaningful and innovative solutions to reaching zero waste.”
The Department of Tourism is also a partner and sponsor of the coastal cleanup initiative. “It is imperative that we keep our home and beaches clean for the citizens and visitors,” said Alani Henneman Todman, USVI director of communications. “Conserving the natural beauty of our destination for future generations should be the mission of every Virgin Islander, as we live in paradise.”
The Marine Advisory Service is a division within the University of the Virgin Islands Center for Marine and Environmental Studies program. It works with the V.I. community to raise awareness about natural resources and foster environmental stewardship.