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Families watch the surf as Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

The oceans play a vital role in the success of Myrtle Beach. Thousands of people travel to the Grand Strand every year for the sake of dipping their toes in the Atlantic or getting their feet covered in sand that stretches for miles up and down the coast.

That's why former Coastal Carolina student in Cheyenne Cunningham will hold a local beach cleanup on Tuesday in honor of World Oceans Day.

World Oceans Day is internationally recognized by the United Nations and the goal is to bring awareness to the importance the ocean has on communities and the ecosystems the ocean supports.

“The ocean sustains who we are,” Cunningham said. “There’s no ocean, there’s no us. If the coasts become damaged, so do we.” 

According to statistics from Ocean Conservancy, eight million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. That’s on top of the 150 million metric tons that are already in many marine environments around the world. 

For Cunningham, a cleanup like the one planned for Tuesday is a step in the right direction in making sure Grand Strand beaches stay clean and presentable. 

“The least we can do is keep the oceans and coastal environment healthy,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham‘s event is sponsored by Global Eco Adventures, a nonprofit created by Tom Mullikin, a teaching associate at Coastal Carolina University and the chairman of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission.

For Mullikin, World Oceans Day is a day of celebration.

“It’s a day of acknowledgment of our responsibility to care for the world’s oceans,” Mullikin said. “Seventy percent of Earth is covered in water and most of that is in our oceans. And it’s really why we have life on earth, the water that exists on Earth and it’s important that we take care of our waterways, especially our oceans. It’s a huge opportunity to celebrate what the Lord has given to us.”

With more and more tourists expected in the area for longer durations throughout the year, cleanups like the one on Tuesday are even more vital to the future of the local beaches.

“The first initiative we need to take is to promote awareness,” Cunningham said. “People just don’t know. You and I would say it’s common sense, but in order to generate healthy coasts we need to promote awareness. You see what happens when we don’t and that’s why we have to take this initiative.”

The cleanup is the only beach cleanup officially recognized by the UN’s website that’s happening in the Carolinas. Cunningham hopes that events like Tuesday’s will help keep South Carolina beautiful.

“[South Carolina] is beautifully carved by estuarian systems, beaches and pristine coastlines," she said. "In order to keep it that way, it’s our job at this point to go out there and promote awareness."

The clean up will start at 10 a.m. rain or shine at the SkyWheel on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Garbage bags and protective gloves will be provided.

Reach Ian Livingston Brooking at 843-248-6882 for any story ideas or news happening in your area.

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