Marine debris has become a threat to the CNMI’s overall beauty and the animals that have made the Commonwealth and its beaches their home.
According to the Micronesian Islands Nature Alliance executive director Roberta Guerrero, it is common to find lifeless animals by the shores of beaches like Old Man by the Sea and Marine Beach. These animals usually die of the same cause, marine debris consumption.
Unfortunately, marine debris has become an epidemic internationally and has spread to the CNMI, impacting more than 200 species of animals. At least one third of all sea birds consume marine debris and almost all sea turtle species consume debris.
About four months ago, MINA Tasi Watch rangers discovered a huge bird lying in a pile of debris sprawled across the beautiful shore of Old Man by the Sea during the Tasi Watch’s regular surveillance.
The team dissected the bird and as they theorized, the bird had died from consuming an excessive amount of marine debris like plastic bottles, plastic caps, plastic bags, etc.
Marine debris, according to an entry found on a national geographic feature about the Pacific trash vortex, is litter that ends up in the ocean and other large bodies of water. An enormous amount of marine debris has accumulated over the years and has formed a sort of pile in the North Pacific Ocean that is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Guerrero said in an interview that due to storm surges in the last couple of years and the continuous climate change, currents continue to shift and as a result, the marine debris has been washing up on Saipan’s shores in bulk.
“This trash gets washed up on Saipan’s shores and it could be from who knows where. Some of them could be generated here with the run off enters the water or when people just throw their trash on the ground,” she said.
Guerrero said that although a portion of the debris found on Saipan’s shores could have been produced by the islands’ residents, it is not possible that the islands’ locals are responsible for the enormous amounts of trash that are washed up on the islands’ beautiful shores every day.
Guerrero said there isn’t much the alliance can do in terms of clean up because the alliance does not have the manpower to clear up the excessive amount of marine debris, and the alliance does not have the funding needed to obtain the right equipment needed to haul the loads of trash from affected areas; not to mention the affected areas are inaccessible to vehicles.
Guerrero said that all they can do right now is continue to conduct surveillance, survey the area, and haul out as much trash as each ranger can carry on foot.
In the meantime, while MINA collects as much funds as they can to carry out clean up missions, the community can help out by practicing environmental conservation like properly disposing trash so they don’t make it into the ocean, and by picking up as much debris as they can off of the streets, or off of the shore.
“It takes all of us,” she said.