Rescheduled coastal cleanup set for next Saturday
By The Star Staff
Aware of the importance of natural spaces for the social, economic and emotional recovery of communities after the impact of major storms such as Hurricane Fiona, leaders of the Scuba Dogs Society (SDS) have doubled down on the work plan of the International Coastal Cleanup 2022, which was rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29.
The international event, which this year marks the 20th consecutive edition coordinated by SDS in Puerto Rico, is traditionally held on the third Saturday of September in more than 100 countries. In Puerto Rico, the work scheduled for Sept. 17 had to be postponed because the island was preparing for the scourge of Fiona. Following the devastation caused by the system, which hit the archipelago as a Category 1 hurricane, SDS efforts focused on supporting recovery initiatives spearheaded by its coastal captains in severely affected communities.
Having achieved some stability, the organization and its partners decided to conduct the massive cleanup operation next Saturday. They are preparing for a much more complex scenario than the pre-hurricane one.
“We can anticipate that there will be more debris on the banks of rivers and streams, as well as at the mouths of rivers on the beaches, due to the floods and all that they dragged in their wake,” said marine biologist Sandra Schleier, the SDS program coordinator.
She noted that coastal captains have already been inspecting their areas and documenting their findings as a precautionary and planning measure. They recognize that they need more hands to complete the work and remove waste with greater caution.
“Because of the type of solid debris that may be encountered, they [volunteers] are asked to wear heavy gloves,” Schleier said. “The captains will provide guidance on the precautions to be taken according to the profile of the space to be cleaned.”
Irma “Mimi” Ruiz, the interim executive director of SDS, emphasized that it is precisely because of this type of scenario that more volunteers are needed.
“We want to return to our natural spaces safely as soon as possible, recover them, prevent the development of further threats to public health, and fully enjoy their beauty, which is why this cleanup is so important,” she said. “Nature needs us now as much as we need it.”
Volunteer registration is available at www.scubadogssociety.org for those wishing to join International Coastal Cleanup 2022. Pre-registered individuals will receive instructions from the organization or their captains.
Ruiz clarified that some captains and organizations have needed to schedule their cleanups for different dates. Still, they are all part of the same event coordinated by SDS. The results will be documented through the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell application, which organizes the event worldwide.
Minors can volunteer. Those 17 years of age or younger must have written authorization and be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Volunteers will be certified for four hours of Green Contact or community service.
The 211 United Way Puerto Rico Information and Referral Center will be available for more information at (787) 268-5353.
“We had originally invented Scuba Dogs Society’s Veinte Tú to clean and care for our beaches and celebrate 20 years of uninterrupted work on this important mission,” Ruiz said. “Today our exhortation is strengthened; the ‘Veinte Tú’ is to help recover our natural spaces and our communities, support ourselves, and take care of the natural resources that sustain us.”