NEGRIL, Westmoreland — A group of local divers, on the occasion of World Oceans Day, cleared major dive sites off the Negril coast of non-biodegradable waste, removing three bags of glass and plastic bottles, fish nets, rusted metal, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes and boat parts.
World Oceans Day was observed on Friday, June 8.
The team — which was drawn from Sandals Negril, Beaches Negril, Beaches Sandy Bay and Grand Pineapple Negril — comprised four divers who went down 30 feet, and nine snorkellers who concentrated on the shallow sections of the popular one-mile-stretch of the Sandy Cay Reef.
“Sandals has always done clean-up activities to preserve the environment and we usually try our best to remove any garbage we find while on dives,” said Elfred Greenfield, diving instructor at Sandals Negril.
“Our team members have also been actively involved in several beach clean-ups in the past, with the most recent one taking place at the Bulls Bay Beach in Hanover on International Coastal Clean- Up Day. Today’s extensive clean-up was just another way to expand our reach, involve and build more awareness of our ocean’s needs among our team members,” he added.
The Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS) predicts that 50 per cent of reefs will be dead or severely damaged over the next 30 years if urgent attention is not given to preservation. It’s an ominous warning for stakeholders in the tourism industry, whose marketing promotions are largely hinged on sea and sand.
“The ocean bed is mainly affected by inorganic matter such as bottles [both plastic and glass], fish nets and a host of other undesirable items,” said NCRPS Administrative Manager Dian Holgate, who also works on the Negril Marine Park Project.
According to Sandals Negril’s Environment, Health and Safety Manager, Denisha Powell, the hotel’s effort to rid the sea floor of debris was more than environmentally friendly, it made good business sense.
“Countries where beaches, diving and snorkelling are the main attractions continue to generate millions of US dollars for tourism and thousands of jobs. Negril, with its 22 dive sites [the largest number in Jamaica], is no different. That alone is a significant reason entities like Sandals need to take a joint approach to continue aggressive training programmes and putting strategic plans in place for the sustainability of our seas, oceans and coastlines,” she said.
Sandals Negril certifies, to international standards, over 45 divers on a monthly basis, translating to hundreds across the Sandals group.
Owned by Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, the chain is the Caribbean’s leading green hotel, having recently been platinum certified by EarthCheck. It has also been honoured with several other awards for eco-friendliness, including Travel Weekly’s Eco-Friendly Green Resort 2010 (Sandals Negril), the Negril Area Protection Trust Blue Flag Certification (Beaches Negril), and the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Green Star Diamond Award.