International Cleanup Day on 25 September 2010, held annually by Project AWARE and the Ocean Conservancy, saw tens of thousands of people all around the globe tackle the impacts of marine debris.
According to Project AWARE, “At least six million tones of debris enter the world's oceans each year, harming wildlife and underwater environments. The scuba diving community is influencing change by using their unique skills to remove underwater debris and gathering data to inform conservation. In 2009, AWARE divers worldwide took the plunge and collected 555,000 lbs of debris.”
Locally, the Boracay Association of Scuba Schools (BASS) encourages dive centers to participate in regular cleanup events, with the International Cleanup Daybeing the pinnacle event of the year. At Calypso Diving, for example, equipment was provided for certified divers to join in the underwater cleanup, with both staff and guests submerged to keep the house reef in tip-top condition.
“These underwater cleanups are really important because removing the debris from the water and logging the data with AWARE is vital to the future health of the oceans. Additionally, when people see the spectacle of hundreds of divers from centers all along the beach heading down to the water regularly to take action, it gets them talking about conservation and encourages them to spring into action too,” commented the Calypso Diving team.
Meanwhile, the Boracay Beach Management Program (BBMP), a collaboration of the Province of Aklan, the Municipality of Malay, Boracay Foundation Inc., Petron Corporation and San Miguel Corporation, launched on International Cleanup Day their first project of the five-year program. The anti-littering project is lead by the Technical Working Group and spearheaded by Mayor John Yap.
“While we enjoy the growing tourism and commerce that the island attracts, we are deeply concerned about the environmental implications which the continuous influx of people unintentionally brings. We are determined to maintain and constantly rehabilitate the island,” Mayor Yap said.
To this end, the Municipality of Malay now imposes fines (P500) for littering. A particular focus of the project is tackling the problem of cigarette butts not being properly disposed of, which according to Project AWARE’s data is a threat to the marine environment in coastal areas. The launch of the anti-littering project also encouraged activities from all sectors of the island, with beachfront cleanups featuring prominently. Over 1000 bags were filled by hard-working volunteers!
Amanda Tirol, Anti-Littering Event Organizer, said “Our slogan is ‘Para sa Boracay Ako! For Boracay I will…’ meaning if you love the island then you will help it to stay healthy. We wanted to pose the question to islanders: What will you do for Boracay?”
We can all act to protect the coastal and underwater environment, allowing us to continue to enjoy the natural beauty of our world. Don’t wait until the next International Cleanup Day: do something today and every day to keep our planet healthy!