September is recognized as International Coastal Clean Up Month and each year Friends of the Environment and the Ministry of Tourism co-host Abaco’s participation in this international event. The official cleanup day was September 20 but cleanups took place throughout all of September and the beginning October. FRIENDS sent out invitations to schools, churches and local government to participate but it was mainly only schools who responded with just a couple of community groups.
Prior to clean up month Cassandra Abraham, Education Officer with FRIENDS visited public and private schools from kindergarten to grade 12 giving presentations on pollution in order to highlight the problem and try and encourage interest in children to assist in cleaning up.
“Abaco has a huge pollution/garbage problem,” stated Ms. Abraham. “Early education is of paramount importance and so I go into the primary schools and give them a daily routine to remind them about keeping the place clean so that they will have a different mindset when they grow up. They sing songs, do fun things, keep tally sheets and pledge to be friends of the environment.”
According to Olivia Patterson, Program Coordinator for FRIENDS, schools which participated in clean ups were Angels Academy, St Francis de Sales School, Abaco Central High, Treasure Cay Primary, Forest Heights Academy, Fox Town Primary, Man-O-War School, Amy Roberts Primary and Hope Town School.
Treasure Cay Primary cleaned up the mangroves along the highway, Forest Heights Academy, assisted by a few members of the Rotary Club committee cleaned up Crossing Beach and Brown’s Bay, St Francis de Sales, also assisted by a few Rotary members, cleaned up Casuarina Point beach, Angels Academy cleaned the coastline along Front Street and Abaco Central High cleaned from the school as far as Change Ministries along Forest Drive. The forestry unit plus one person from Environmental Health cleaned up an area in the Pine Forest near Spring City and Jo-Ann Bradley, resident of Cherokee Sound, organised five subgroups to clean up areas in that settlement including the Long dock and shoreline.
The Marsh Harbour/Spring City Council also did a community cleanup.
The majority of items collected were bottles, cans, plastic cups and paper plates, all items pertaining to food which people had thrown down and left after their picnics. In Casuarina Point many large plastic items were found having been washed in from the ocean during a recent heavy storm.
Some of the more unusual items found were 25 tyres and 15 large appliances in the pine forest by the Forestry Group, high-heeled shoes, underwear and a suitcase on Front Street by Angels Academy and 16 glow sticks used to illuminate fishing lines by Man O War school.
Mrs. Patterson stated that she saw a broader participation across the island this year but was hoping for more churches and community groups to participate. Each cleanup group is provided with large garbage bags, plastic gloves and tally sheets by FRIENDS.
All items picked up, no matter how small, are recorded on the tally sheets during the cleanup and handed in to the FRIENDS office. All data is then recorded by Mrs. Patterson who submits it to the Ocean Conservancy which is responsible for correlating the data collected from every beach clean up around the world.
According to Ocean Conservancy data, during their 2013 Coastal Clean Up 648,015 volunteers in 92 countries (one of which was The Bahamas) picked up more than 12.5 million pounds of trash. The Ocean Conservancy is working to see that the ocean’s most extraordinary places are preserved for future generations to use and enjoy.
Ocean trash ranks as one of the most serious problems of our time. It is not only an eyesore but trash in the water and on the shoreline affects the health of people, wildlife and economies. Injuries can occur to swimmers and beachgoers and wildlife is harmed by eating trash and becoming entangled in it. Boat propellers become ensnared and are a costly navigational hazard. Trash on the beaches also drives away tourists and when tourists do not come their money stays at home and so the economy is adversely affected and everybody suffers.
PLEASE TAKE YOUR TRASH HOME WITH YOU AND KEEP OUR BEACHES AND OUR ISLAND CLEAN.