by Lani Edghill
I grew up on Hastings beach on the south coast of the island between Coconut Court and Hilton. As a child and teenager I walked the beach daily and often cleaned up garbage. Much of this garbage was from people dumping on the beach but other garbage would wash up onto the shore from unknown sources.
As a child I played on the reef and watched sea turtles lay eggs on this stretch. There is much for us to be proud of when it comes to our beautiful beaches and rich ocean ecosystems that host a myriad of beautiful ocean creatures.
These days I live on the south easterly part of the island, just inside the dunes of Long Beach. This part of the island is truly scenic with its untouched rugged beauty, beach dunes and undeveloped wetland. Many tourists who I meet on the beach tell me this is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island but they wonder why it is littered with all types of garbage and dead fish!
The question that my dad and I have been asking each other for so long is; where does it come from?
Recently I learned that according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (pdf), ocean vessels including cruise ships are legally allowed to dump raw sewage and garbage into the open ocean In addition recently there has been media coverage about the Caribbean not doing anything about this ecological disaster in fear of slowing economic development. (Tampa Bay Online: Cruise Ships Use Caribbean as Solid Waste Dump)
Marine debris in the ocean is becoming a growing concern. A study conducted in St. Lucia by the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute showed significant levels of plastic materials in the oceans. Plastic debris is most common such as bags and bottle caps, and is a threat to all ocean organisms. Sea turtles and sea birds can ingest plastic causing blockages in digestive tracts, damaging stomach linings and lessening feeding drives. Marine organisms can also become entangled in loops or openings of submerged or floating debris and many often drown or die of starvation as a result.
Raw sewage released into the ocean contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and phosphates. These nutrients, in high concentrations, can cause harmful algae blooms that consume oxygen in the water column that can lead to fish kills and destruction of other aquatic life; this is locally referred to as “green water”. The cruise ship industry contributes a large amount of treated and untreated grey water to the marine system overloading it with nutrients. This is one of the theories behind the recent fish kills but no one can seem to tell us what is really causing this phenomenon and claim that it is normal. (See The Nation article Fish kill at Bath ‘no cause for alarm’)
One thing is for sure this is not a natural occurrence and there is cause for alarm… Our environment is trying to tell us something!
About a week ago dead fish, garbage and nonnative organic debris started washing up on Long Beach. My father even found two dead adolescent Leatherback Turtles, the most endangered turtles in the world. As of today dead fish are still washing up on the shores! We may not know exactly what is causing this but there is no question that our marine environment is stressed, the question is what can we do about it? Well there are lots of things and I believe that as a community we can work together to change our behaviors and respect our earth.
Clean Up Barbados Day!
On September 19th the Future Centre Trust will be holding an event called Clean Up Barbados Day. This event coincides with the global Clean Up the World Weekend and offers Barbadians the opportunity to contribute something positive to their community by helping to clean up an area that needs attention. This event can provide Bajans with a sense of hope that if we all work together we can help. The Future Center is asking that if any community groups or organizations/businesses would like to organize an event or contribute by sponsoring the event.
Please contact The Future Centre at 425-2020 or email@example.com. You can also visit their Facebook group ‘The Future Centre’ or our website at www.counterpartcaribbean.org.
In addition to keeping our surroundings clean it is important for us to all be conscious of how our behaviors contribute to solid waste issues. On November 27th the Future Centre will be hosting an event called No Plastic Bag Day. On this day at participating locations reusable shopping bags will be for sale for $3.99. This will encourage and allow the public to say NO Thanks to plastic bags when they shop. Customers will also be encouraged to bring their own or say no if it’s only a small item. Plastic bags are often used once and thrown away; they degrade in the kitchen or laundry cupboard; clog up drains and landfills; they are a hazard to marine life and are made of non-renewable fossil fuels. This habit is unsustainable but we as a community have the power to change our behavior.
Some of the other things we can do; reduce all waste such as composting and throwing away less garbage (this means being more conscious of reducing waste such as not accepting plastic bags). This also means using less and recycling more. Yes people we may not have a municipal recycling program on the island but we do have options, see local recycler list at No Excuse For Not Recycling In Barbados!
In addition we can also use dish washing soap that includes biodegradable phosphates and surfactants (there are some cheap brands too) and most importantly we can write our local representatives and let them know what we would like to see the government do to improve on these issues.
Anything else to add Barbados?
Let’s remember everyone that we have a choice to be part of the problem or are part of the solution. Let’s all work together to be part of the solution!