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Marine Debris Action Plan Team Hosts Second Workshop

Kristin Grimes opens the workshop with a discussion about the Marine Debris Action Plan. (Screenshot)

The Marine Debris Action Plan team held its second virtual workshop Thursday to finalize strategies for its program to help the U.S. Virgin Islands manage marine debris.

The first MDAP workshop was held in October 2020, and participants were able to share ideas for the plan. The second workshop was designed to continue to grow and strengthen the marine debris stakeholder network within the territory and beyond, to provide stakeholders with an update on the USVI MDAP revision, and to determine how to put the USVI Marine Debris Action Plan to work.

Kristin Grimes, research assistant professor for the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies at the University of the Virgin Islands, said that the goal of the workshop is “to determine together how we might turn the ideas that we’ve drafted into action within the USVI community over the next five years.”

The plan is being created to protect the USVI’s coasts, people, and wildlife from the impacts of marine debris. It encompasses five goals: to engage and inform the community about marine debris; to prevent and reduce the generation and improper disposal of solid waste; to locate, remove, and properly dispose of marine debris throughout the territory; to conduct and use high-quality research to address marine debris issues; and to effectively coordinate marine debris-related actions throughout the territory and beyond.

Since the first workshop, “Our team has really been hard at work since then, incorporating your feedback, your ideas, and edits, and completing consistency reviews to create the revised USVI MDAP,” Grimes said.

The Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service hosts its second workshop for its Marine Debris Action Plan. (Zoom screenshot)

On Thursday, the MDAP team heard from four agencies and organizations: Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Virgin Islands Conservation Society.

Participants were separated into groups to share ideas about how the plan should be used during the next five years. They shared ideas about educational outreach in schools, public enforcement, legislation, and the establishment of a marine debris coordinator. Some said they hope the shared ideas can create a funding increase for some marine programs in the territory, create jobs, and recycling programs.

Sophia McKenzie, a program coordinator for the University of the Virgin Islands’ master of marine and environmental science program, said, “I’d like for everyone who is in the territory, both visitors and residents, to make the connection of their daily life and how they impact marine debris. What they use in the home and how their household systems are set up.”

Sophia McKenzie talks about how she thinks the MDAP can be utilized for the next five years. (Screenshot)

Some participants spoke about the lack of enforcement for littering in the territory and said the responsibility for cleaning up trash is sometimes passed from one organization to another.

“I know that enforcement is often a weak point in the Virgin Islands,” said participant Leslie Henderson. “They’re very underfunded and overworked. I think we all recognize that and realize that compliance and enforcement are real important for something like marine debris where it’s hard to monitor, it’s hard to enforce the rules. And so, getting that compliance through other means is important as well.” Henderson is the USVI Coral Management liaison for NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management.

Surveys were taken during the workshop and participants continued to share their thoughts about the use of the plan.

The MDAP intends to strengthen or create partnerships between local, regional, and national stakeholders. The next version of the MDAP will be shared by December.

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