Pride in Our Seas, Pride in Ourselves: Preventing Land-Based Sources of Marine Debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands
A group of people in a room.
Educators attending a Marine Debris Educators Workshop held October 4, 2016 at the University of the Virgin Islands. The workshop introduced new materials and resources available to teachers on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and provided ideas for how it can be adapted into educational curriculum. (Photo Credit: UVI)

The University of the Virgin Islands is teaming up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to reduce land-based sources of marine debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands through a targeted ridge-to-reef and watershed educational and outreach program that engages partners, territorial educators, school children, and graduate students.

Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant

Region: Florida & the Caribbean

Project Dates: August 2016 - December 2017

Who is involved?
The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant and in partnership with Oregon Sea Grant, Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, is helping to reduce land-based sources of marine debris on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix through a targeted education and outreach program.

What is the project and why is it important?
Approximately 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources, including items like food and beverage packaging, glass bottles, metal cans, and cigarette butts. This debris enters the marine environment in a number of ways including through ineffective or improper waste management, lack of recycling options, intentional or accidental littering, illegal dumping, or through streams and stormwater runoff. In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), there is a large amount of marine debris produced by residents and tourists. Unfortunately, once in the marine environment, marine debris is not just an eyesore, but can damage habitats, harm wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, and have negative economic impacts on coastal communities.

This project aims to reduce marine debris coming from land-based sources on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix through a targeted education and outreach program. With the help of Oregon Sea Grant, the project team is adapting portions of an existing curriculum from Oregon to make it more locally-relevant to the USVI, a resource that is currently absent from USVI schools. The adapted curriculum includes local examples to make the concepts more engaging and relevant for students. As part of this in-depth marine debris curriculum, UVI is also partnering with teachers to transform beach and shoreline cleanups into opportunities for hands-on learning.

UVI is connecting these participating classrooms with UVI Masters in Marine & Environmental Science students, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority to explore creative ways to transfer information learned in the classroom to the broader community. These transfer projects focus on creative messaging to reduce marine debris coming from land-based sources and incorporate locally-important themes that identify with the culture and history of the USVI. The impact of these projects are then measured through formal and informal assessments.