FIFTEEN TONS: That’s the astonishing amount of trash collected by nearly 400 volunteers from the urban lagoons and estuaries of Puerto Rico on Saturday, March 16. Other notable numbers include four hours — the length of time it took for those busy individuals to pull all that trash from the mangrove forests that rim these lovely lagoons., and about four weeks — the length of time between the decision a couple of anglers made to hold a PR-wide lagoon cleanup day and the whole thing coming together with remarkable organization.
What prompted anglers Israel Umpierre and José Aponte and others to undertake such a daunting task was SF’s February editorial, “Urban Lagoons: On the Brink.”
Although I was flattered to repeatedly hear the magazine lauded (or blamed in jest by some weary volunteers) as responsible for the massive cleanup (limpieza) effort, in fact, it was of course weeks of planning and coordination by these sport fishermen that made it happen. They also obtained support from dozens of sponsors, including the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, West Marine, Daiwa and Yo-Zuri, and got a number of major government officials involved.
I took a few photos that offer some idea of how this extraordinary event in Puerto Rico went down and share some in the following pages — but the shot at the left was taken by an event volunteer and really captures the spirit of the cleanup. Members of the Kayakeros Del Este club were out in force and loaded up their craft like this happy hauler, with tires, old chairs, nets and much more.
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