Over 60 people including eight boats, nine kayaks and paddleboards, 27 divers, eight snorkelers and 12 topside support volunteers gathered Sunday morning to continue the work that started with the 2017 Gasp–Our Beads event: to not only clean up marine debris, but to better understand how brightly colored beads – the primary waste biproduct of festivals and parades – impact the water quality of Tampa Bay.
The day event was held and supported by GDI, The Florida Aquarium, Center for Open Exploration, St. Pete Makers, the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI Worldwide), and the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“The Florida Aquarium is proud to support both the Center for Open Exploration and GDI in their Gasp–Our Beads Cleanup and Survey,” said Tara Henson, The Florida Aquarium’s Director for Marketing and Communications.
The purpose of the project was not only to clean up a small section of the channel and seawall, but to begin quantifying the distribution and abundance of beads and trinkets associated with Gasparilla Festival activities in the area.
“This effort not only aims to clean our waterways of toxic beads and debris, but it also takes it a step further and collects data that can then be used to help make better choices for our waterways. Participating in this critical effort is just another way The Florida Aquarium, thanks to incredible partners, is able to protect and restore our blue planet,” said Henson.
Volunteers who contributed to efforts both on land and sea represented Brandon Scuba, SCUBAnauts International, the University of Tampa, and the Hillsborough County Property Appraisers Office.
“As the saying goes,‘it takes a village,’ and thankfully that’s what we had today,” said GDI Manager Amanda O’Connor. “Our volunteers today included Tampa Bay citizens of all ages, and they truly rose to the occasion being the environmental stewards that the bay needs.”
“Cleanups are important and have a positive impact, but the more significant focus and aim is to reduce the pollution at its core, before it hits the waterways. To accomplish this, there needs to be an emphasis on building awarenessand establishing an involved community,” according to a view strongly held by event partners.
“As a representative of the diving community, NAUI recognizes the importance of addressing issues related to water quality and plastic pollution in our waterways. We are proud to support the Green Diver Initiative and its local Tampa Bay partners in this important project,” said NAUI instructor and Gasp–Our Beads co-coordinator, Angie Cowan.
Gasp–Our Beads of Tampa Bay aims to both learn about the long-term effects and distribution of festival beads on the aquatic environment and eventually also work with the community to identify feasible environmentally friendly options.
The event – held in partnership with the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge – collected over 298 pounds of beads from an area of approximately 1,700 feet in length and 150 feet in width out from the seawall of Channel Drive (approx. 4-1/2 football fields). Other items of interest collected include a crutch, a lawn chair, and a bronze statue of Ganesh.
For 2017 Gasp–Our Beads Cleanup results, visit https://www.naui.org/news/the-results-are-in-for-the-gasp-our-beads-of-….
Support this and existing projects by making a donation at https://green-diver-initiative.kindful.com/.