Shim urges MoBay residents to keep gullies free of garbageThursday, August 19, 2021
MONTEGO BAY, St James - Though the drains in Montego Bay were recently cleared in preparation for the hurricane season, domestic waste materials being thrown into the city's gullies are still finding their way into the Montego Bay Marine Park, says Executive Director Hugh Shim.
The waste, he stressed, can negatively affect the quality of reefs.
The heavy rainfall being experienced in the resort city since the start of the season, Shim shared, now acts as a vehicle transporting the waste from communities running along gullies, from as far as Cornwall Courts.
“With the rainfall, especially when it originates in the hills, you can see the results in the garbage coming down both the North and South gullies. I was [out] on the road on Friday, and [I] could see the [number] of debris that were coming down; the usual garbage, mostly plastic bottles,” Shim told the Jamaica Observer West.
Though he is not casting blame on the residents of these communities, Shim pointed out that residents should properly dispose of their garbage so they do not end up in the drains which then lead to them causing issues in the marine park.
“They know they shouldn't be throwing their garbage in the streets because it's not only like domestic garbage that is being dumped in gullies, but it is also garbage being washed from the streets that go into the drains and the gullies,” he said.
He added that these plastic items flowing into the reef pose a threat to the marine life, which will result in the reduction of our fish population.
“So, when it [washes] down, especially the plastic bags – because we're still seeing those, not the black ones anymore but we are seeing more of the transparent bags now – those can choke fish and it can also kill the reef, which in turn causes a downturn in marine life.
“The marine life lives on the reef and if the reef is not [healthy] then they won't have a home or anywhere to eat. So fish population will go down and, of course, that means fish will get more expensive because you will have less fish being caught [since] they will be harder to come by. Everybody will be affected indirectly,” he added.
The garbage flowing from the gullies can also affect Montego Bay's tourism product, Shim said, especially now, in the age of the Internet.
“The other thing, too, is that it will affect tourism. We are struggling with tourism now and our water sports and water activities are a large part of our tourism product, especially in Montego Bay. If you look out [on the waters] you will notice that there are a lot of boats out there every day and quite a few of them do snorkeling and diving. When the [visitors] go diving and they see the garbage, or they're swimming and it washes up on the beach, nobody wants to be swimming in dirty waters, so of course it can affect our tourism. [Especially] with the Internet now and people posting on Instagram and Twitter, people will get turned off and not come. So what we do can affect our livelihood as well as health,” Shim argued.
While he acknowledges the regular complaints of irregular garbage collection in some communities, he believes this is not an excuse for the illegal dumping of garbage into these gullies. Shim is therefore appealing to residents to limit the amount of waste materials by joining the Montego Bay Marine Park Trust in their practice of “refuse, reuse, and recycle”.
“I know the major complaint is going to be that nobody is collecting the garbage. I don't know how true that is or how regular it is being collected, but that still doesn't give you an excuse to dump it in the gullies. [What] we always say is refuse, reuse, and recycle. In other words, if there is something that you don't absolutely need to use, don't use it. You can do without 10 plastic bottles or three plastic bottles for a small amount of grocery items. Even the paper bags, your bottles, and jars, just reuse or repurpose them, [they can] be used for something else,” Shim urged.
Established in 1991, the Montego Bay Marine Park encompasses some 16 square kilometres of mixed-use Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Montego Bay area, and is home to two fish sanctuaries, the Bogue Lagoon and Airport Point.
The sanctuaries are aimed at increasing fish abundance and protecting the coral reef ecosystem. The park also advocates and raises environmental awareness for the protection of the 20 kilometres of shoreline, including coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove ecosystems.