International Coastal Cleanup Day, an international event held for nearly three decades, takes place this Saturday with more than 17,000 volunteers expected to participate in Puerto Rico, according to local organizers.
“After the Olympics, this is the biggest event held at the world level,” said Alberto E. Martí-Ruiz, executive director of Scuba Dogs Society. “Its goal is simple and clear: clean and healthy shorelines.”
Held since 1987, the event mobilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide to clean coastal beaches and inland waterways (rivers, lakes, and streams).
In 2012, 561,633 volunteers in 97 countries and locations around the world participated in the event, covering a distance of nearly 18,000 miles and collecting more than 10 million pounds of trash.
Puerto Rico was among the top 10 locations in terms of participation in 2012, according to the Ocean Conservancy. Martí-Ruiz said 17,300 local volunteers took part in the effort, which netted 220,226 pounds of trash along 268 shorelines. He expects more people to join in this year.
The top items found in the international clean up were cigarette butts, food wrappers and containers; beverage bottles and cans; plastic bags; caps and lids; cups and utensils; straws and stirrers; paper bags.
Among the more unusual items found were candles, lottery tickets, toothbrushes, sports balls, and mattresses.
This initiative is important because anything that ends up in the ocean can affect its health and endanger marine life. Turtles mistake floating plastic bags as food and seals, whales, dolphins, sharks and birds die from getting entangled in fishing line and other debris.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, more than 2.6 billion people rely on the ocean as a primary source of protein.
To participate, sign up at http://www.scubadogssociety.org.