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Okinawa Clean Beach Club Launches Summit 2000 Campaign

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-03-05

The Okinawa International Clean Beach Club (OICBC) will launch its island-wide cleanup effort on Sunday, March 5th at the popular dive spot, Maeda Point in Onna village. Coral Day, as it is known in Okinawa, marks the day that the non profit group begins this year’s ongoing project to protect and improve the fragile aquatic environment and coastline of Okinawa through beach cleanups and educational services.

The Okinawa International Clean Beach Club is a volunteer group that was formed in 1992 by Edo Heinrich-Sanchez and Kenny Ehman, both long-term residents of the island. For almost 8 years, this group has been responsible for the removal of tons of debris from the coastline as well as increasing the level of awareness of all people who share the natural beauty of this island. Additionally, the group has worked diligently to educate the younger generation of Okinawa through seminars and exhibits in an attempt to influence the future leaders of this island.

Cleaning the beaches of Okinawa has been a monumental task, as private beaches are littered with debris. Common items found during the cleanups are tobacco filters, glass pieces, beverage cans and foamed plastic pieces. The coral reefs and aquatic life have had to bear the brunt of the damage caused from large amounts of environmental waste and pollution. And almost all who use the beaches are guilty of littering. “We have a policy of showing, instead of pointing a finger at those guilty of polluting the coastline,” says Heinrich-Sanchez. “The Clean Beach Club is an avenue to act on cleaning up the trash and at the same time is an avenue for bringing ideas to increase the level of awareness.”

As confirmation of the club’s ongoing effort to keep Okinawa beautiful, this year’s “I Love Okinawa” campaign will focus on three key areas. The main program will focus on the yearly beach cleanup schedule by starting the “Adopt a Beach” program to encourage groups to be more active in the cleanup effort. The program already has a promising start; both the Hokuzan High School and the Hispanic American Association have adopted beaches, and more groups are expected to support the initiative.

The second program is a traveling exhibit entitled, “Okinawa’s Beautiful Ocean: An Important Treasure for Our Children.” The first-ever exhibit includes photographs, data and displays concentrating on the participation of children during past cleanup efforts. Organizers hope that the exhibit will increase parent involvement with protection activities.

The third key program of the OICBC is a joint effort with the Prefecture in cleaning up the island for this year’s G-8 summit. As part of this effort, the club has produced posters that will be seen all over the island focusing on the theme “Make every 3rd Sunday of the Month a clean beach day where you live.” The aim of these posters is to encourage residents to keep local neighborhoods and beaches clean.

“We want more groups to adopt a beach… We also would like to see joint programs in which the US Military and local nationals are working together,” says Heinrich-Sanchez. Squadrons and US Military groups are encouraged to adopt a beach. According to Heinrich-Sanchez, the Clean Beach Club will act as a liaison between the local government and the group to clear the location and arrange for garbage pickup.

“We also want to remind everyone to start preparing for the Okinawa International Island-wide cleanup in September,” Heinrich-Sanchez says. This massive coastal and underwater cleanup is held in conjunction with the PADI project Divers Aware. Last year, PADI Japan and MCCS joined together to lead in the huge effort of cleaning the Sunabe coastline, and close to 2000 volunteers from around the island participated in the cleanup of 25 different locations gathering 5791 bags of trash weighing 20.494 tons.

The Okinawa International Clean Beach Club performs beach cleanups every third Sunday of the month. If you are interested in assisting with the March 5th cleanup, or if you want more information about the “Adopt a Beach” program, please fax questions or any information to 965-5371, or email the OICBC at edo@okinawaocean.wwma.net. The OICBC also has a website, www.okinawaocean.wwma.net that includes maps and details of the beach cleanup sites as well as more information about the club.

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