In November, 120 Coast high school and college students participated in a program that hauled piles of trash and even car parts off Ship Island, and a federal grant will ensure more students follow.
The project was highlighted in a blog this week by Caitlin Wessel, regional coordinator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program for the Gulf of Mexico.
“Our goal is to get 3,000 students out there,” said Kevin Buckel, director of sales for Ship Island Excursions, which shuttles the students to the island.
The ferry service is signing up students to go to the island before the National Park Service opens it for the season.
The half-day cleanup program is free and open to teachers and students in middle school and older from the three Coast counties. Students get classroom training about marine debris along the Mississippi Coast and then ride the ferry out to Ship Island.
“College kids we took out there had never been on a boat before,” Buckel said.
Passengers also will learn about marine debris and the effects on the island through an interactive kiosk that will be installed by staff at the University of South Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab. The lab also will provide marine educators and student ambassadors.
“Marine debris is an issue throughout the country and unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is no different,” Wessel said. “To address this problem, we first must work to prevent trash from becoming marine debris and we do this through education and outreach.
“Unfortunately, there’s enough debris out there that we must also work to remove it.”
NOAA provided the grant, which will ensure the program continues through fall.
“The students catalog what they pick up out there,” he said.
That will determine how much and what type of debris is out there and where it’s coming from.
For details and to sign up, contact Summer Dorick at 228-818-8884.