Harnessing the power of the NMI to fight ocean pollution

International Coastal Cleanup tomorrow
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Posted on Sep 20 2019

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A week after doing the first Micronesia Cleanup Day, the CNMI will be going out once more tomorrow, Sept. 21, to pick up trash, this time joining the rest of the world for the International Coastal Cleanup.

With the theme “Harnessing the Power of People to Fight Ocean Pollution,” this year’s ICC highlights the impact that even a small group of people has in cleaning their surroundings.

The ICC is considered the world’s largest single day cleanup event. Last year, the CNMI had 1,532 volunteers who cleaned over 50 locations and collected 9,180 lbs of trash.

Colleen C. Flores of the Division of Coastal Resources Management and coordinator of the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup, said that many participants from last year will be participating again in this year’s edition of the ICC.

As part of ICC activities, picking up trash is just one aspect of the event; people are also collecting data on the kind of trash that they pick up.

“As they [volunteers] go, for example, if they find 10 cigarette butts, they have to tally those cigarette butts,” Flores said.

The DCRM takes the data that the volunteers collect afterwards and input it into the world’s largest ocean trash database, run by Ocean Conservancy. This data helps scientists and researchers come up with ways to mitigate and find solutions to the world’s trash problem.

Incidentally, in terms of quantity, cigarette butts hold first place among the trash collected in the CNMI’s ICC. As for weight, though, DCRM reports that buoys, fishing gears, and large plastics, palettes or containers are the top collected trash.

“Based on our previous cleanups, we’ve noticed that most of the marine debris on the west side of our island—the Saipan lagoon—are land-based sources of pollution. It’s trash that come from the residents on the island,” Flores said. “But on the east side, the backside of Saipan, most of that trash that we see are all washed up marine debris from elsewhere around the world.”

Kiko Ignacio, a resident of Chalan Kanoa, believes that an island paradise like Saipan should be plastic-free. The ban on single-use plastic is currently being mulled in the CNMI Legislature.

“I don’t want it to be late for this island. With all the things that are happening around the world that concerns the environment, the CNMI should be plastic-free,” Ignacio said. “Small supermarkets should be told to go plastic-free and get rid of those small black plastic bags.”
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres calls on the community to take part in this year’s International Coastal Cleanup. “As much trash as one can collect today, I’m sure that we can go around again and do an even better job collectively the next day. So I encourage everybody to participate tomorrow and in other future cleanups.”

For those interested in joining the International Coastal Cleanup tomorrow, sign up at dcrm.gov.mp or contact Flores at cflores@dcrm.gov.mp.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com

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