On August 20, the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) conducted a cleanup operation at Icaraí Beach, 12.4 miles from Rio de Janeiro, with volunteer U.S. service members from the USS Carter Hall. About 100 service members (20 from the U.S.) took part in the operation. According to MB, an estimated 8 million tons of trash end up in the world’s oceans every year, of which nearly 90 percent is plastic debris.
“This is an environmental awareness civic and social operation to preserve the environment. The Navy supports all operations associated with preserving the maritime environment and the National Plan to Combat Marine Litter, from the Ministry of the Environment,” said MB Rear Admiral Gilberto Santos Kerr, commander of the 1st Squadron Division.
The cleanup activities at beaches and mangroves are just one of 30 operations scheduled in the plan, which also includes: installing retention devices, such as rainwater collection systems and floating barriers in rivers and tributaries; stimulating selective waste collection and reverse logistics for industries to recycle or destroy materials produced (and prevent them from littering the 274 seashore municipalities along the 5,300 miles of coastline); and encouraging innovative technological projects that make use of plastic collected in the maritime environment.
MB, whose mission is to monitor the waters, control water pollution coming from ships, ensure navigation security, and preserve human life at sea, has a special interest in the plan. On August 28, MB, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Environment, the Office of the Attorney General of Brazil,signed a technical cooperation agreement to fight maritime debris and protect Brazilian jurisdictional waters.
According to the agreement, MB operations include monitoring and combating environmental crimes, and preventing and helping combat pollution of oceans and rivers in the Blue Amazon, a maritime area of 1.3 million square miles with a high concentration of Brazilian mineral and oil resources.
“The Navy’s assignment is related to preventing water pollution; however, because we work in the ocean, it is important for us to always keep the ocean and beaches clean. Therefore, this is part of an idea to collaborate in the spirit of preservation,” said Rear Adm. Kerr.
U.S. service members from the USS Carter Hall made the most of their participation in multinational exercise UNITAS in Brazil, August 19-30, and joined the Brazilians in the operation.
“There are 13 countries participating in UNITAS, but this time the Americans learned that we were going to work on an environmental awareness operation and asked to join. This type of operation is important to them,” Rear Adm. Kerr said. “The U.S. Navy is very interactive, they always volunteer, and they are very engaged in activities of civic and social nature.”
The Brazilian and U.S. service members completed the cleanup work, collecting a total of 176 pounds. “The idea is that the operation would positively impact the people walking along the beach, so that they would also participate in the preservation of the maritime environment,” Rear Adm. Kerr said.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Rick Williams, chaplain of the USS Carter Hall, highlighted the importance of the joint operation. “It’s wonderful to engage with our partners, to make real friends, while cleaning the beach. It shows the partnership and friendship that unites our two nations.”