Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Conservation Officer at the Department of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Graeme Browne, said that cleaning the reef was critical to the day’s activity.
He went on to say “At the edge of the reef, where the coral starts, we found plastic and cans. So this refuse could not get over the coral to go out to sea, but at the same time it could not wash up on the shore. Not only is this unsightly but the marine life on the reef can become entangled in this and die.”
Mr Browne explained that prior to the Beach Clean Up, weather conditions were monitored closely to ensure that on the actual day of the event they would be appropriate. He revealed that the previous year, poor weather conditions had caused the Underwater Clean Up to be cancelled. This year, however, on the actual day of the clean-up, the first order of business was to assess the wave conditions. It was determined that the waves were rolling and murky.
After an initial inspection along the beach from the high water mark to the reef, Mr. Browne and the other certified diving volunteers divided themselves into three groups. It was decided that the best divers would comb the extreme end closest to the reef which is about 10 to 15 feet deep, the less experienced ones the less deep area at about 8 to 10 feet and the remainder would walk the shore area where the waves were lapping. With the aid of snorkelling equipment, the certified divers went to the required depth to retrieve the garbage. It was immediately placed in recycled onion bags because ordinary garbage bags of plastic would float to the top of the water.
“At this particular reef where we dived, there was a large population of juvenile fish in quite a few species,” Mr. Browne informed. “This tells us that it is a nursery for them and such requires a special balance. It would be a great misfortune if the bad habits of individuals disturbed this delicate marine environment. This could affect our supply of fresh fish, so our fishermen may be robbed of a livelihood and tourists who come specifically to snorkel would go to other islands. So it is up to us to dispose our garbage properly whether we visit the beach or go sailing and encourage others to do the same. Browne also thanked all who assisted with the Underwater Clean Up including the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force Coast Guard personnel, the Ministry of Agriculture for providing the onion bags and all volunteers.”