Tackling Marine Debris in Florida and the Caribbean

Posted Tue, 02/19/2019 - 09:16

It’s Florida and the Caribbean Week on the Marine Debris Program Blog! Tune in all week to learn more about our work in the sunshine and bright blue waters of this region.

Many people think of Florida and the Caribbean islands as vacation destinations. Warm sun, beautiful beaches, and clear waters attract people from all over the world. Some people are even lucky enough to live in these places all year round. Locals want to protect their stunning beaches and natural resources from the hazard of marine debris. The two newest Marine Debris Program projects in this region focus on getting the residents of the Sunshine State involved in making a difference when it comes to marine debris on their community.

Students holding reusable cups on a beach.
Eckerd College students raise their tumblers to toast a successful start to the project. (Photo Credit: Angelina Kossoff)

Eckerd College in St.Petersburg, FL is surrounded by water. To clean up a beach, students don’t even have to leave campus. With the ocean so close, it is no wonder that the community of students, faculty and staff at the college want to make sure that their debris is not ending up in the Boca Ciega Bay that surrounds them. With the support of the Marine Debris Program, the Eckerd College community will be empowered to reduce single-use plastics across campus. Providing reusable alternatives, offering classes on marine debris, hosting speakers on the issue, and instituting campus-wide policy changes regarding single-use plastics, will all be part of a coordinated effort to make a positive change in this community.

Group holding a "Ghost Trap Rodeo" banner.
Volunteers take a group photo with a fraction of their haul on January 19, 2019, at Little Manatee River in Tampa Bay. (Photo: Danielle Dawley)

In the nearby Tampa Bay Estuary, a community of anglers is also creating change. No one knows Florida’s waters like the salt-baked fishers that live there. Working with the Marine Debris Program, Ocean Aid 360 in partnership with the Coastal Conservation Association have found a way to mobilize this community in the fight against marine debris. Lost fishing gear, also known as ghost gear, litters Tampa Bay and the local anglers are the best people to find it. Through a series and fun and rowdy “Ghost Trap Rodeo” competitions, the community gets a chance to clean up their waters and win exciting prizes.

Tackling marine debris is a community effort. Even if you don’t live in Florida, your community can make a difference. Check out your region’s page to find projects that are already happening, or start you own cleanup! Together we can make our waterways free of debris.