Thousands of volunteers gathered from the early hours Saturday to clean 200 Puerto Rican beaches, rivers and lakes to celebrate International Coastal Cleanup Day.

According to Alberto Marti, executive director of the Scuba Dogs Society, the organization most concerned about keeping the island's beaches clean, the goal this year is to collect more than 250,000 pounds (113,500 kilos) of the solid waste scattered around Puerto Rico.

"We have joined today's initiative to collect data on the trash we find on our coasts," Pablo Mendez Lazaro, professor of the Environmental Health Department at the University of Puerto Rico, told Efe.

The idea is to gather data about solid waste in estuaries, coastal areas, rivers and other bodies of water and see "how badly we are managing them."

"We don't intend to pick up anybody's trash so they can just go on littering. What we want is to create a database from what we observe throughout this day that will help us understand how we are managing solid waste on the island," he said.

Mendez was one of the scores of volunteers who, for different reasons, showed up this Saturday at the fishing town of Boca Herrera in Loiza municipality, a center near San Juan that attracts those interested in fishing, good dining and local arts and crafts, as well as in aquatic sports.

In the opinion of the head of Puerto Rico's Scuba Dogs Society, founded in 1993, this effort will help considerably to beautify some of the more privileged places on the island, which will make Puerto Rico more of a tourist attraction and will in turn benefit the whole community.

During last year's International Coastal Cleanup Day, around 600,000 volunteers from 100 countries took part in cleaning coastal areas around the world, and in doing so collected 9 million pounds of garbage (more than 4,000 tons). Six out of every 10 pieces of trash were plastic. EFE