Volunteers from Save The Bays, West End Eco-Fishing Camp Association (WEEFCA) and 4Ocean stooped, scooped, piled, packed and hauled away 1,160 pounds of debris from the beaches and mangroves of West End, Grand Bahama April 1, which exceeded their projected amount of 1,000 pounds, and when they were done, they said it would take 10 more days just like that one to restore the area to the pristine nature it once enjoyed.
“The West End clean-up was rewarding and sad at the same time,” said Joe Darville, chairman of the environmental advocacy group Save The Bays, which organized the event. “It was rewarding to know that so many people who cared came together for a worthy cause and that, together, young and old from 7 to 75, we were able to pull out so much trash. But it was sad to see how many thousands of plastic bags and how much other debris remains.”
Nearly 70 persons, including three from Florida-based 4Ocean, participated in the clean-up.
“We saw clothing, shoes, kitchen and household goods, all sorts of things that had been swept away during the hurricane,” said Waterkeeper Bahamas Director Rashema Ingraham. “But it was the plastic bags that were most disheartening, thousands of them. They were on every branch, every tree. People just do not realize how they hurt the mangroves. If mangroves could talk, they would be pleading with people to take more care. They are being strangled by plastic.”
One young volunteer from the Save The Bays Youth Environmental Ambassador program said he pulled out at least 40 bags and when Ms. Ingraham asked him how many more he thought were there, he answered without hesitation, ”a million.”
Clean-up volunteers Keith and Linda Cooper, WEEFCA Directors, know too well what hurricanes and careless behavior can do to the mangroves they show visitors daily.
“The Coopers have opened the eyes of so many people to the importance of mangroves as nurseries for young conch, crawfish, fish and other marine species,” said Mr. Darville. “In addition, they provide a natural barrier helping to keep those on shore safer during a storm. They also act as a filter and the soil they capture over time can form a cay or island.”
Save The Bays presented the Coopers with a trophy and an award as part of the mangrove awareness and clean-up campaign.
“We are so grateful to have caring people like the Coopers who despite having lost nearly everything themselves during Hurricane Matthew, went out and helped others whose homes and businesses were devastated by the brutal storm,” said Mr. Darville. “And then on a daily basis, they open the eyes of visitors to the fragile ecology of West End, once the lifeblood and heartbeat of Grand Bahama, now more often and more accurately referred to as quaint, which is to say quiet. The Coopers have helped keep West End alive in the hearts and minds of all Bahamians.”
The weekend clean-up was one of many of Save The Bays education and awareness efforts. The organization with more than 20,000 Facebook friends has nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition calling for comprehensive environmental protection legislation, an end to unregulated development, a strong freedom of information act and other environmental measures.