How much are some people willing to give to solve the problem of ocean trash? In the case of the amazing partners who organize the International Coastal Cleanup across entire countries and U.S. states, the answer is: everything they have.
We call them the “sea stars of the Cleanup.” Meet just two, Azusa Kojima and Yoshiko Ohkura from JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network).
Like their fellow coordinators around the world, they manage a host of responsibilities, including:
- identifying sites on the water to be cleaned and overseeing those sites;
- educating the public and rallying a volunteer network;
- engaging reporters from radio, television, newspapers and online news sources;
- arranging cleanup day logistics; and
- ensuring that data collected by volunteers reaches Ocean Conservancy for publication in the annual Ocean Trash Index.
JEAN’s efforts on behalf of the Cleanup for more than 20 years are legion. Now the recognized marine debris leader in Japan, JEAN unified existing cleanup efforts and inspired more participation by educating the public about the dangers of ocean trash. From 800 volunteers at 80 sites in 1990, JEAN has grown the Cleanup exponentially, with more than 22,000 volunteers at 234 sites in the peak year to date.
And now JEAN is on the frontline addressing debris from the 2011 tsunami. Representatives from JEAN including Azusa and Yoshiko traveled to Oregon in July; they came to participate in a workshop to plan for the arrival of tsumani debris on the West Coast.
Additional International Coastal Cleanup coordinators attending included Patrick Chandler of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies; Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission; Chris Woolaway (who collaborates with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful and Friends of Honolulu Parks and Recreation); Briana Goodwin of Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism (SOLVE); and Joan Hauser-Crowe of Oregon.
“We have engaged our network of Cleanup coordinators every year for the Cleanup, and once again, they are sharing their connections, research and ideas to help prepare for what may come,” says Dave Pittenger, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program.
It’s easy to see that the ripple effect carries the vision of trash free seas from coordinator to coordinator, and from lakes and rivers to the ocean’s shores. That’s why we salute each and every one of them.
Sonya Besteiro, who works with coordinators year-round as associate director of the Cleanup, says, “The International Coastal Cleanup would never have grown into the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health without all the dedicated people who make it happen in their corner of the world.”
Learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at the Cleanup. And ask yourself, “How much am I willing to give?” Consider spending a few hours pitching in and picking up at an event near you!