It’s almost September, and in three weeks, we will all be joining the world, yet again, in the International Coastal Cleanup celebration. Mark your calendars and register, as this year, the global cleanup even is set on Sept. 18, Saturday.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is calling on everyone to join in and help. In an interview with Saipan Tribune, the governor stressed the importance of respecting and protecting our oceans.
“It is crucial that we protect our environment,” Torres said, “It is what we have, it is what we live for, and it is what gives us our life. …In farming, you need to have good soil, good water to [get] good produce. Same with our ocean. We need to have a healthy ecosystem in order for us to have good fish, good clams, and all the seafood. …I remember growing up my dad would always go fishing. That’s what we eat in the morning for breakfast, and that’s why we try to give that opportunity for our children, to appreciate what we have here in the CNMI.”
Unfortunately, garbage that end up in the coasts and waters disturb the ecosystem. They cause coral and marine habitat destruction, as well as introduce pollutants to the oceans that could threaten marine species. It can also directly affect us through bioaccumulation, where toxins get built up, gets absorbed and eaten by fishes, which we then also eat.
Last year, over 9,000 lbs of garbage was collected by the International Coastal Cleanup volunteers in the CNMI. Saipan had 750 volunteers who collected 7,040 lbs of trash in 40 different locations, Tinian had 59 volunteers who collected 887 lbs of trash in 10 different locations, and Rota had 166 volunteers who collected 1,217 lbs of trash, cleaning 26 different locations.
Cigarette butts topped the most collected debris on island at 9,833 pieces, followed by plastic bottle caps at 5,576, and beverage cans at 2,882. Aside from these three, volunteers also collected 2,388 food wrappers, 1,958 plastic bottles, 1,547 metal bottle caps, 1,339 plastic cutlery, 1,235 straws and stirrers, 984 [other] plastic bags, and 834 plastic grocery bags.
There were also 26,509 microplastics collected, 906 tiny glass pieces, and 705 tiny foam pieces. These are wastes so tiny, they are less than 2.5cm in size, never fully biodegrades, and instead, just breaks down into even smaller pieces that eventually find its way into the CNMI shores, according to the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality.
“We are very blessed [by the] ocean that we have here,” said Torres. “Therefore I ask all the community, please, let’s take care of it, let’s protect it. At the same time, let’s use it for sustainability purposes, teach our children the importance of fishing, as well as protecting the environment.”
Last year, the CNMI had 971 volunteers who cleaned up 76 locations all over the island. We can have even more for this year’s International Coastal Cleanup celebration, again, on Sept. 18, Saturday.
To register your group, or as an individual volunteer, contact ICC coordinators Colleen Flores at email@example.com or (670) 664-8300/8316 (for Saipan); Edwin Hofschneider at firstname.lastname@example.org or (670) 433-3169 (for Tinian); or William (Bill) Pendergrass at email@example.com or (670) 532-0466.
For more information on the International Coastal Cleanup, visit https://dcrm.gov.mp/our-programs/education-and-outreach/international-coastal-cleanup/.