The San Juan Bay Estuary Program is one of the entities driving this kind of efforts, such as the one developed through the Microplastic Pollution and Reduction Strategies, which trains volunteers to remove harmful substances from the waters.
Recent efforts by young people who are learning techniques based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protocols to identify plastic particles that endanger the lives of thousands of fish and other animals in our oceans, lakes, and rivers are highly encouraging.
Thanks to the work of experts in this partnership with the University of Puerto Rico College of Natural Sciences, volunteers develop environmental remediation skills, and at the same time, they provide scientific documentation to measure environmental damage while removing polluting particles from the water, in this case from the San Juan Bay Estuary.
In an island like Puerto Rico, affected by coastal erosion and pollution associated with deficient solid waste management, as well as compliance with environmental protection laws or regulations, it is urgent to promote environmental education throughout the island.
Every conservation movement, regardless of its magnitude, has an immense value which is replicated in individual efforts. The estuary program addresses water quality and bacteriological monitoring issues involving young educated citizens in a battle for the common good.
In the case of microplastics, experts say that 1 billion tons will reach the sea in the next three decades when there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans if there are no concrete actions to control this pollution.
Microplastics cause damage to biodiversity and potentially to human health, according to scientists researching these materials, which do not biodegrade but fragment into small pieces that fish and other marine animals eat and get intoxicated. Detailed information on the damage to people who consume seafood affected by microplastics is the core objective of ongoing scientific studies. These efforts should be supported by governments as well as private entities because they affect everybody's health and safety.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, it looks like a good sign that children and young people are willing to join these scientific conservation projects, as well as community cleaning tasks. The Estuary program, as well as the rise in citizen participation during the coastal cleanup at the end of September, represent a step forward in these efforts.
According to the Scuba Dogs Society, this year, coast clean up already extended to rivers and streams in nine of 54 villages. They collected garbage and other polluting materials in 222 places. This year the initiative included more than 12,000 volunteers, which places the island among the first 20 countries with the highest level of participation on that day, which involves 122 countries.
Puerto Ricans need to join and continue all efforts aimed at contributing to the conservation of our natural resources, especially to promote recovery after the severe damage to our green infrastructure due to the 2017 hurricanes. That contribution will be key to boosting our sustainable development and will be a good example that other countries can emulate.