Nearly 1000 lbs of plastic waste collected in East Portland for Coastal Cleanup 2019

Different bounty: Divers fish plastic waste from the seafloor adjacent to East Portland for Internationa Coastal Clean-up Day 2019 (Photo: Shaquiel Brooks)

Two diving teams and close to 90 volunteers collected 943 pounds of plastic waste from the coastline of East Portland for International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICC) 2019 on Saturday.

Spearheaded by the Alligator Head Foundation, the clean-up initiative saw volunteers from the Peace Corps Jamaica, HEART Trust/NTA, National Youth Service (NYS), Scotiabank as well as community members in and around Port Antonio chipping in for a valiant three-hour effort.

The conservation effort went full circle, as escovitched lionfish was deliciously served after volunteers cleaned the beach and wider coast.

Scope of the East Portland clean-up

Manager for the East Portland Fish Sanctuary Joshua Bailey told BUZZ that over 120 bags of plastic and glass bottles, miscellaneous food containers and other items – even discarded tires were collected during the clean-up exercise.

Two diving teams went to double missions to rid the seafloor of toxic plastic waste (Photo: Shaquiel Brooks)

“[Saturday] has been an amazing effort. We’ve had Lady G divers, they provided an extra boat for the [beachfront] clean-up. So, it was a team of about 15 divers underwater participating, and we had our land clean-up, which boasted about 85 volunteers,” he explained.

The underwater aspect of the clean-up was targeted at the Blue Lagoon and adjacent to the coastline, overlooking the Port Antonio Craft Market village, which was where the land-based activity was largely focused.

A broken fish pot still catching and killing marine life, is one of the many problems faced by members of the Alligator Head Foundation (Photo: David Lee, f-Stop Movies)

Bailey further explained that Jamaica’s participation in International Coastal Clean-up Day comes through a coalition between the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) and the Ocean Conservancy Group.

“It’s an amazing initiative, it’s a worldwide event and we’re playing our part. What this event hopes to achieve primarily is environmental activism from community members. That’s what we want to achieve here in East Portland; to get more individuals out, actively protecting the environment and seeing the importance of [doing so],” the sanctuary manager told BUZZ.

Plastic in all shapes and sizes found a new home at the bottom of the ocean, choking the life out of the once bountiful sea (Photo: Shaquiel Brooks)

“The second part of it is to collect the data, so we can look into what types of garbage are seriously affecting our coastline. Then, we can push lobbies to the government or present statistics to show how we can better improve our consumerism,” Bailey added.

Plastic ban paying dividends

Already, Bailey noted that this year, clean-up activities have seen a marked reduction in the number of plastic bags and Styrofoam products reaching the sea, so from an initial standpoint the plastic ban implemented on January 1, is showing some benefits to the coastline.

“Every year, we collect data to see what the most popular type of garbage is here so that we get an idea of what’s happening. We’ve been doing this for the last four years and thus far we’re still seeing a high number of plastic bottles [but] we’ve seen a significant reduction in Styrofoam and plastic bags, and I think that is highly due to the ban,” Bailey asserted.

Another ‘rich bounty’ of plastic fished from the sea by the team of divers for ICCD 2019 in East Portland (Photo: Shaqiuel Brooks)

“We are currently implementing new monitoring activities. One of those is identifying the state of our reefs, not just here in east Portland but across the island. There are 18 designated fish sanctuaries in Jamaica. If we continue to use data to inform our policies and action, then we can continue to see a reduction in the amounts and types of waste that come down to our shorelines,” he contended.

Please, let’s take care of Jamaica

Bailey encouraged Jamaicans to pay more attention to the plight of the environment, and where possible, reduce their impact on our natural resources. The sanctuary manager told BUZZ that if only for the selfish reason of enjoying our world-famous beaches, we must do more to protect them.

Clouds brewing with rain failed to dampen the efforts of the Alligator Head Foundation, which is tasked with protecting six square kilometres of East Portland coastline (Photo: David Lee, f-Stop Movies)

“If for nothing else but our own enjoyment of our island, we need to protect it and take care of it. As a Jamaican, I love being outdoors, and I’ve been quite disappointed going to various sights all around Jamaica and seeing garbage,” Bailey argued.

Man overboard! A diver takes the plunge has he hunts plastic and another delicacy in East Portland, lionfish (Photo: Shaquiel Brooks)

“Additionally, most people in Jamaica either know someone or are directly involved in the tourism industry. If we want to continue to make money from our natural resources then we have to protect them,” he told BUZZ.

Check out more highlights from the Alligator Head Foundation’s part in ICCD 2019 in the BUZZ gallery below: