Volunteers taking part in a World Biodiversity Day clean-up removed more than 400 pounds of debris from the West Bay mangrove wetlands around Safehaven on Sunday, 23 May.
Teams from Plastic Free Cayman, Ambassadors of the Environment, the Mangrove Rangers and Protect Our Future took part in the mangrove clean-up, both on land and by sea.
Plastic Free Cayman said in a statement that most of the debris collected was plastic or microplastics, with bottle caps, plastic spoons and forks, bits of Styrofoam, and parts of plastic bags being the most common items collected.
“Even baby mangroves were found growing through and around these plastic patches,” the group said in its statement.
“The event was held to highlight the importance of our mangrove wetlands and the biodiversity they supply. Not only do they help with storm surge, store large amounts of carbon and are the breeding grounds for many marine species, but they also filter our oceans too. Unfortunately, the roots of these species are being bombarded by our trash. Virtually every mangrove area had plastic floating at the base of each tree,” the group said.
Plastic Free Cayman is pushing for a National Clean-up campaign and a plastic ban policy, similar to what has been done in other places around the world.
Dinara Perera, of the Mangrove Rangers, said in the statement, “It was great to see people turn up for this clean-up, but disappointing to see trash, like cigarettes, diapers and bottles, at the base of the mangroves. Cayman’s mangrove wetlands are amazing but it’s important to clean up after ourselves in order to protect the animal species that live in these habitats.”
Lilly Langevin, of Protect Our Future, thanked the Ambassadors of The Environment for providing kayaks for the clean-up, enabling the volunteers to gain better access to the mangroves.
“It was an educational experience,” she said. “After seeing the pollution and knowing how much of our wetlands we have lost, it is more crucial than ever to protect our mangroves.”
Jordan Charles, Ambassadors of the Environment coordinator, said while the solution to marine debris “lies with reduction or elimination of such waste before it enters our water systems, these clean-ups are one of the most effective ways to open people’s eyes and encourage them to make changes towards being less impactful on our planet”.