Renowned marine wildlife artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey will join forces with Pesca, Playa y Ambiente, a Puerto Rican nonprofit organization, and hundreds of volunteers in a massive cleanup effort in a San Juan lagoon and estuary system highly-regarded as a tarpon habitat.
The clean-up effort is scheduled for Oct 26, when volunteers on foot and on a flotilla of kayaks and small boats will launch from nine pre-determined points surrounding the lagoons. The event follows an earlier cleanup effort in March when close to 500 volunteers collected more than 30,000 pounds of garbage in less than four hours.
“The March clean up turned out to be just the beginning,” said Israel Umpierre, collaborator of the movement Mega Limpieza I & II, and founder of the Facebook group Pesca, Playa y Ambiente.
“There is so much more left to do. Our objective is to create awareness among citizens and government about the importance of protecting this unique resource for present a future generations. We are extremely happy to welcome Dr. Harvey to Puerto Rico for this second Mega Limpieza,” he said.
Reckless and illegal dumping of trash, according to event organizers, threatens to compromise the health of what many regard as one of the most abundant estuary systems in the Caribbean and Western Hemisphere, and one of the best tarpon recreational fishing grounds.
Litter and trash in the lagoons and streams feeding the estuary have accumulated in the estuary’s mangrove-lined shores, which act as a natural filter. Beyond creating an unsightly scene, the trash threatens the water quality and creates safety hazards.
A groundswell community response in March to the environmental problem helped launch the social networking site Pesca, Playa y Ambiente, which has now evolved into a nonprofit organization committed to cleanups in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico.
Members joined forces and have reached out to individuals, fishing and environmental organizations and government agencies, including the Department of Sports and Recreation, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Environmental Quality Board, the Solid Waste Authority, and the Department of Education.
“This is a man-made problem with hopefully man-made solutions,” said Harvey, who during his visit will also meet with government officials to discuss environmental and marine conservation issues in Puerto Rico.
On Saturday, volunteers representing both private citizens and government agencies, will spread over eight different points, including two areas at Torrecillas Lagoon, three locations at San José Lagoon, Managua (a small lake near Torecilla), Suarez Canal, Dones Park, areas of Piñones and below the Cangrejos bridge where a group of scuba divers will be removing both trash and lionfish, a non-native species that feeds heavily on juvenile species of sportfish.