Environment

We're #11!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

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Of the 112 countries that participated in International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day last September, Jamaica ranked 11th in terms of the number of volunteers who lent their effort to the activity.That's the highest ranking among English-speaking Caribbean countries, and second only to Puerto Rico, which ranked sixth.

Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which coordinates the event across the island on behalf of US-based Ocean Conservancy, was ecstatic at the news.

“Thanks to the over 9,200 volunteers and 94 International Coastal Cleanup Day coordinating groups who turned out to clean up 138 sites in 2016. We could not have done it without you!

“We are so proud! ...Only one step away from top 10!” the NGO wrote on its Facebook page on Monday, the day the International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report, titled “Together for our Ocean”, was released.

In 2015, Jamaica ranked 14th out of 83 countries and in 2014, it placed 12th out of 91 countries.

JET said last year's 11th place is associated with the “record-breaking” volunteer turnout, with 9,276 volunteers spread across 138 sites covering over 90 miles of coastline and collecting 109,433 lb of garbage. The local NGO has been pushing to have 10,000 volunteers registered for the event since 2015 and hopes this year will be the one.

“Each year the support for ICC grows, and we move up in the global rankings,” said Suzanne Stanley, JET's deputy CEO. “We are hoping that in this, JET's 10th year as national coordinators, we will make it into the top 10!”

Worldwide, Ocean Conservancy reported that half a million people volunteered for the clean-up in 2016. In total, they “covered enough miles of coastline to walk around the moon twice” and collected over 18 million pounds of trash.

“We've collected enough balloons to lift a 2,200-lb walrus and enough fishing line to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the ocean's deepest point – nine times over,” wrote Janis Jones, chief executive officer at Ocean Conservancy.

The Ocean Conservancy was founded in 1972 with the objective of protecting marine species and their habitats. It has been spearheading the annual ocean clean-up for more than 30 years.

In the latest ICC report, the US-based NGO released findings of fresh research into how plastics in the ocean affect animals. It found that “roughly 15 to 51 trillion plastic pieces (93,000 to 236,000 tonnes) float in the oceans at any given time, and eight million metric tons of plastic enters the oceans each year”.

“This means the equivalent of 22,000 747 jumbo jets in plastic enters the oceans annually and that floating plastic weighs as much as 30,000 elephants!” the report said.

“Plastic can impact animals at every level of biological organisation – altering genes, cells and tissues, causing death and/or altering the size of a population or the structure of a community. In 2015, there was little evidence of this impact, particularly at higher, ecologically relevant levels. But today, the evidence is much more robust and researchers now know that small microplastics can impact the reproductive success and/or development of fish, oysters, barnacles and copepods. Moreover, microplastics can alter how invertebrate species function and assemble”.

ICC Day 2017 is scheduled for September 16.

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