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The International Coastal Clean-up (ICC), held annually on September 17th, is the world’s largest one-day volunteer effort to clean the marine environment. This year marks Trinidad and Tobago’s sixteenth year of involvement in the ICC. The Ministry of Planning and Development which has responsibility for the Environment was a major sponsor and an active participant in the day’s events. One-hundred and eighty volunteers boarded the C / Prowler at Pier 1 Chaguaramas, among whom the volunteers were the Minister of Planning and Development Mrs Camille Robinson-Regis, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning and Development Mrs. Joanne Deoraj, Planning and Development staff members including representatives from the Environmental Policy and Planning Division (EPPD), Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA), and Environmental Management Authority (EMA), volunteers from the Port Authority Sports Club, Hakwai Clan, Trinidad Carnival Diaries, Earth Strong Trinidad and Tobago and members of the public were also aboard the vessel bound for the isle of Chacachacare.
After approximately two hours volunteers amassed over 1,700 pounds of trash but were left feeling disappointed as the island looked much the same as when they arrived. The quantity of garbage discarded throughout the island was a jarring reminder of the need to care for the environment and protect our oceans. Single use items such as Styrofoam cups, plates, containers and plastic bottles were among the most common litter found. Ocean trash is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of people, wildlife and local economies. It has the potential to kill marine animals, injure swimmers, damage property such as boat propellers and poison our waters and seafood.
Once washed ashore trash becomes an eyesore and can harbor rodents, as was discovered on Chacachacare. These waterborne materials can also enable the transport of invasive (alien) species over long distances, harm marine wildlife through entanglement or ingestion, and release toxins when they begin to disintegrate, which can contaminate the food chain. Reducing the amount of waste entering out waterways is a commitment that we must all make if we are to preserve our environment.