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Posted on Mar 11, 2013 in Top Shots
Let the Cleanup Begin!
by Doug Olander

 

On March 9, one week before they’ll organize hundreds of volunteers, group leaders for the massive effort to clean up Puerto Rico’s urban lagoons held a planning meeting.

 

I’ve been involved in a few grass-roots initiatives in my life, but never really started one, until recently. 

In a few days, I’ll fly down to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to participate in what has become an apparently massive public cleanup of the island’s beautiful urban lagoons on Saturday, March 16. 

That came about after a visit I made about three months ago to explore these supposedly tarpon- and snook-rich lagoons (they are!) and write a feature (which you’ll see in Sport Fishing this fall) on fishing for them from kayaks. It was a great trip, as a photo gallery I posted just afterwards showed, the only flaw being the unsettling amount of trash we encountered around the perimeter of many lagoons.

That flaw was the basis for an SF editorial in the February issue, entitled “Urban Lagoons on the Brink.” And that editorial is the reason all the people you see in the photo above have come together — to organize hundreds of volunteers who’ve signed on to rid these lagoons of trash. 

The editorial sparked a movement and galvanized citizens concerned for this unique marine wilderness in their midst in a way I could never have imagined. One of the chief organizers, Israel Umpierre, has worked tirelessly to involve government agencies/officials (whom he knows will be key to the long-term health of PR’s lagoons) as well as a host of private enterprises stepping in to assist, including the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, West Marine, Daiwa, Yo-Zuri, Costa and others.

So I’m excited to be returning to Puerto Rico to assist in and document this historic day. Look for a photo gallery here next week that will show what public initiative and will can do; good on you, Puerto Rico! You should be proud.

One justification for keeping the island’s lagoon system clean: the dollars for the territory’s economy that serious sport-fishing interest generates. I hope a flood of anglers will plan to fish Puerto Rico; I can tell you that it’s hard to find better tarpon and snook fishing anywhere. And, once cleaned up, it will be harder to find more inviting undeveloped urban lagoons anywhere, as well.

“Monster Cleanup” trumpets this poster which has gone up around San Juan and shows just some of the sponsors who’ve come on board to help ensure this effort is a resounding success.