SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The SXM Coastal CleanUp Project from Kidz at Sea has started its underwater mapping activities funded by the Resources for Community Resilience-R4CR Grant Scheme. The first half of this project focused on training residents of St. Maarten in the dive courses needed to execute an underwater clean-up of garbage found along the coastline in the marine environment. With their training complete, divers have begun the work to collect and catalogue data on the debris from Hurricane Irma, which still litters the coastline of St. Maarten.
Throughout the first part of the SXM Coastal CleanUp project several residents were given the opportunity to receive introductory and more specialized dive training in order to safely map and remove debris from the coastline. Both Ocean Explorers Dive Center and Aqua Mania Watersports worked hard to train divers extensively prior to mapping activities. During these courses, divers learned the skills necessary to safely and accurately execute the second half of the project. Specialty dive courses that focused on proper buoyancy underwater and accurate search patterns were a key to the tangible results of the project.
Many participants hope to use their extensive dive training in the future, “These past few weeks have been some of the greatest learning experiences in my life. All thanks to Kidz at Sea, and R4CR. I am a certified scuba diver and that is important living on the island, enabled with skills to conduct underwater clean-ups and surveys. I am truly inspired to be an environmental ambassador on my island and promote a more sustainable lifestyle,” said project participant Nelly Blaise. “I want to influence my people to become more aware of the environment and various habitats on the island. Some of us do not see the immediate consequences of our actions on the environment and that makes me sad. However, being educated about coral reefs, aquatic animals and diving, gives me the confidence to change the mindset of my community to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Along with one underwater clean-up event that will take place in a bay area of the island, two other coastal areas are currently being mapped to show type of debris, corals, and native seagrass beds. “The mapping dives will be used to consult the Nature Foundation in regards to safeguarding any marine life to the areas we hope to clean-up. The maps and the data collected with them will be used to ensure we don’t remove debris with protected coral growth or cause any damage to the marine environment,” explained Project Coordinator Leslie Hickerson.
After the mapping is complete the Nature Foundation will give advice on which area is best suited for debris removal and any special considerations that need to be put into place. The project will execute an underwater clean-up with all participants in early December. During this event the garbage removed from the water will be weighed and recorded in order to complete a full report of the current state of St. Maarten’s coastal areas.
The SXM Coastal CleanUp Project is part of the Kids at Sea Programs and is supported and funded by Resources for Community Resilience. Resources 4 Community Resilience (R4CR), a program implemented by VNG International and funded by the World Bank Trust Fund for St Maarten, which was created to provide assistance to the island after the devastating hurricane Irma in 2017. Kidz at Sea has used the assistance of R4CR to expand their maritime training to include this program and the first dive certifications for their participants.