Scuba Dogs Society marks 20 years of coastal cleanup
By The Star Staff
Thousands of volunteers convened by the nonprofit Scuba Dogs Society (SDS), the official organizer of the International Coastal Cleanup in Puerto Rico, will make history on Saturday by completing two uninterrupted decades of the event, despite facing devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and a global pandemic.
Irma “Mimi” Ruiz, president of the SDS board of directors, highlighted the magnitude of the achievement of a community committed to the environment, which for 20 years has responded to the Scuba Dogs Society’s call for changes toward a culture of reduce and reuse that promotes harmony with nature.
“All of us in Puerto Rico should feel proud of the milestone that will be marked this Saturday,” Ruiz said. “It is clear evidence of what defines us as people, of how capable we are of uniting for the love we feel for our resources and our people.”
She emphasized that the key to success has been the multisectoral participation made up of the strength of volunteers, allied organizations, the commitment of the companies and, above all, the leadership of the “captains of the coasts.”
“This Saturday, we will clean 200 coastlines and natural areas throughout Puerto Rico, joining more than 100 countries under the Ocean Conservancy initiative,” Ruiz said. “We emphasize the importance of registering at www.scubadogssociety.org to have a record of participation at the international level.”
Ana Trujillo, former executive director and project manager of SDS, said citizen participation has been key in generating the database of waste removed from bodies of water in Puerto Rico.
“It has been 19 years of uninterrupted citizen science,” she said.
Standing out in the data analysis is that in 11 of the 19 years, Puerto Rico has been among the top 20 countries with the highest participation of volunteers and, on most occasions, number one per capita. Also, the number of volunteers increases while the weight of waste removed decreases. From 2002 to 2021, 182,370 volunteers participated, and almost three million pounds (2,901,221.36) of waste were removed.
“There is no better education than through action,” said Alberto Martí, co-founder of SDS and a board member. “Mobilizing all segments of the Puerto Rican community consistently for 20 years in a row has achieved a real transformation of behavior that we have been able to evidence with data like this. There is still a long way to go, of course. Still, today it is up to us to celebrate this great achievement in favor of our coexistence in harmony with nature.”
Ruiz stressed that there are still areas that have captains but need volunteers for the cleanup. She urged individuals, families, and groups to visit www.scubadogssociety.org to register.