Since the past weekend residents of San Pedro started to notice some garbage washing ashore at various locations on the island. It was a mixture of old plastic containers and seaweed. But it was until late Wednesday evening that residents of Caye Caulker were shocked to notice miles of garbage drifting just offshore and eventually making it onto their shoreline. One resident of Caye Caulker recorded seeing a seven mile stretch of garbage off that island.
Puzzled by the large quantity of garbage littering the waters and beaches, residents of both islands have been questioning if the garbage is coming from the cruise ships that make port in Belize City. But it is easy to disregard this assumption as just looking at the content of the garbage one can tell that it is not coming from the cruise ships. The composition of the garbage is that mainly of old broken plastic containers, gallons, Styrofoam, plastic wrappers, syringes and even shoes that have clearly been disposed of for a long time.
Miles of floating garbage offshore Caye Caulker
Garbage litters beaches in front of hotels and resorts in Caye Caulker
Speaking with officials we discovered that most of the garbage could very possibly have been pushed out from the rivers in Belize and all the way down to Honduras. The region has been experiencing heavy rainfall due to back to back tropical systems passing over the area the past few weeks. The rains were followed by south-westerly winds and very high tides which pushed the garbage offshore. Now that the trade winds are blowing towards the mainland once again, all the garbage washed out to sea is being pushed back inshore.
The garbage pile up is much more serious in Caye Caulker were it has completely covered some beach areas, including the famous swimming area The Split. Caye Caulker Village Chairman, Mr. Wayne Miller, says that the garbage can be seen all around the island, including the western lagoon side.
Residents of both islands are very concerned about the impact the floating garbage will have on the environment and marine life. San Pedro is not as affected as its neighboring island of Caye Caulker, whose residents are working on a massive cleanup campaign. Both islands are very dependent on tourism and cannot have their beaches looking filthy.
Miller explained that the Belize Tourism Board and Oceana Belize have been notified of the situation and they are planning in assisting the Caye Caulker community in the cleanup efforts. While in San Pedro, the little garbage that has washed up ashore has been cleaned up by the San Pedro Town Council and by private businesses and homeowners in other areas.
This is not the first time garbage has washed up ashore after flooding and river runoff, but it is definitely one of the first times that that much garbage is littering the area.
Caye Caulker photos courtesy of Ms Femi Blanco
The situation is not as bad in San Pedro, but some garbage did wash up ashore. See pictures below.
Shoes, plastic water bottles and more wash up on North Ambergris Caye - photo by Findley Halliday
Garbage cleanup already started in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye