SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The SXM Coastal CleanUp Project hosted the 2021 Underwater CleanUp on Saturday, December 4th. During the event volunteers, participants, and dive crew removed 527 pounds of debris from the water in Simpson Bay. This project and event were made possible by the support of Resources for Community Resilience-R4CR as part of the Quick Win Grant Scheme Round 2.
“We are so pleased with the results of the 2021 Underwater CleanUp,” said Kidz at Sea Project Coordinator Leslie Hickerson, “The participants worked very hard this year to receive the proper training to execute this project and their efforts clearly paid off with the huge amount of debris we were able to remove during the event. Not only did they execute this part of the project impeccably, but also many of the participants have shown interest in taking part in more clean-ups to help make St. Maarten’s bays cleaner, safer, and more beautiful.”
Throughout the year the SXM Coastal CleanUp Project has coordinated dive training for several St. Maarten volunteers so they could safely and efficiently remove debris from one bay area of the island. “It is one thing to clean up the ocean, it’s another to do it properly,” explained project participant Star Peterson.
Upon completion of these courses the volunteers took part in several mapping dives in different coastal areas of SXM. These dives were used to evaluate the conditions and amount of debris in the areas and to help select which bay would be the best to execute the clean-up with the assistance of the Nature Foundation, St. Maarten.
After returning to shore the debris was weighed and sorted so data could be collected. Of the more than 500 pieces of removed garbage approximately 40% was plastic. Removing plastic from the ocean was a high priority for the project as plastic does not biodegrade, but just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. While these pieces sometimes become too small to see they are still there and can be ingested by marine life or even humans.
“Unfortunately, thanks to hurricanes and the continued use of single use plastics, we will continue to need underwater coastal cleanups around the island, but now we have our first group of trained St. Maarten volunteers who are excited to be able to continue to do this”, said Kim Frye of The Scuba Shop. “The hard work and enthusiasm of the volunteer participants has inspired all those involved to continue partnering with this project.”
“We would again like to thank R4CR for their support of this program and their belief in Kidz at Sea to be able to execute such an ambitious project in the time allotted. The support we received has truly made a difference, not only for our island, but also in the lives of our participants. The training that they have received can be used to further their careers in the maritime, tourism and environmental sectors,” said Kidz at Sea.
Many thanks to the staff of Dive Adventures, Ocean Explorers, SXM Divers, The Scuba Shop and Magnis for the time and support they gave this project, as well as to our independent dive instructors Cayley, Jen and Ryan.