Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shocking photos and story from St. Johns, Antigua

My company Adventure Antigua operates tours by powerboat around Antigua and often has to collect guests from Redcliffe Quay in St. Johns. Every single time we go in there we pass garbage floating inside the harbour. Commercial harbours around the world are usually nasty and it's fairly normal for some garbage to bypass storm drains and end up in the water. Water running along the gutters and drains has to end up in the harbour, but there should be some sort of grate filtering garbage. In Antigua this doesn't seem to be a priority. These images were taken after an hour of rain in St. Johns back in January of 2007. Both the Antigua Sun and the Daily Observer papers used my images and mentioned the garbage. One of the call in shows spoke about it and generally people were shocked to see all the trash floating around in the harbour. A small fraction is stopped by the coastline around Deep Water Harbour, but most of it goes into the sea. I can't imagine what the east coast of Nevis and St. Kitts look like. They should write to our government on this issue! Dumping garbage into the sea is against International Law and the government of Antigua and Barbuda know that this is happening. It wouldn't take much to put small catchment mechanisms on the gutters preventing the trash from getting into the harbour, and why it's not done is beyond me. Check the photos taken from my boat:

Anyway, this past Saturday September 19th was International Coastal Cleanup Day and we went out to see if we could get rid of some of the trash in the hopes that we could stop it from getting back into the sea. There are a huge variety of living organisms that are harmed by this garbage. The most common way they are killed is by getting tangled in it, but they also are killed when they mistake the plastics for food. Human beings are being harmed as well and more and more of the chemicals in breaking down marine plastics are finding their way into our bodies. In some areas in the ocean up to 50% of the stomach contents of fish have been found to contain plastics. This article on marine plastics breaking down was published today on BBC.

Anyway, on Saturday a group of 18 of us took one of my company's boats out to two tiny beaches near Yeptons and Coconut Beach Hotel. A few years ago i had seen one of the life boats from a cruise ship collecting garbage from there. I guess they were embarrassed to have their guests see this trash on their first Antiguan beach as they entered the country. This is probably yet another thing the wealthy Cruise Association should look at. I guess the huge staff at the Ministry of Tourism could come up with some action too. As we arrived, the rain was coming down sideways and the weather wasn't great. Unfortunately we ran out of garbage bags very quickly. We had taken 150 of them. The trash not only is on the shore but has been washed and blown up the hillsides. It's embedded in the ground there too. What a mess. Although the beaches looked so much better after we attacked them we could see more garbage flowing out of the harbour as we worked. It's won't stop until the gutters and drains are fixed properly (and not just with yellow and blue paint). Check the images we took from Saturday: