On Saturday, Nov. 19, Sarasota Bay Watch and partners conducted an underwater cleanup at the Tony Saprito Pier in Sarasota. Participation swelled to over 60 volunteers as vacationers, fishermen from the Tony Saprito Pier and passerbys joined the effort.
Seven hundred and fifty pounds of debris was collected including fishing line, fishing poles, tires, crab traps, a laptop computer, three cell phones, street signs, anchors and cast nets. Participants also found a variety of marine life including three octopi, brittle stars, puffers, sea urchins, green muscles, and stone crabs.
In total over 750 pounds of debris was collected and brought back to a staging area under the Ringling Bridge. Twenty-five pounds of fishing line, 205 pounds of lead and 141 pounds of nets were separated, weighed and measured. The information gathered is shared with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine and Debris Program and the Ocean Conservancy.
Coordinator Ronda Ryan was excited that much of the debris, including the nets, will be used by NOAA in their Fishing for Energy Program (FEP). The FEP is a partnership of NOAA, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, and Schnitzer Steel. The FEP has sites in 10 states and 48 ports and has collected over three million pounds of discarded fishing gear.
One of the partners, Schnitzer Steel, sorts the recyclable metals, while the remaining non-recyclable materials are burned to create energy at one of Covanta Energy’s, Energy-from-Waste facilities. This prevents items that can’t be recycled from ending up in local landfills.
Partners included local volunteers, the Sarasota Police Department Underwater Search and Rescue Dive Team, SRQ Fire Department, city of Sarasota Sustainability Program, the Suncoast Reef Rovers, Aqua-Ventures Dive Team, the New College Bull Sharks Dive Team and a group of citizen divers organized by Al Jefferies of Scuba Quest.
The divers were assisted by volunteers in kayaks and police and fire department boats who transported the debris they collected to the staging area. Volunteers also were stationed on the pier, where they helped divers, collected discarded line and other debris. Many of those assisting the effort were high school students who received volunteer hours for their participation. One of the most rewarding moments of the cleanup was watching children as they released marine life from nets, fishing line and other debris.
The amount of debris collected during the cleanup was sobering when you consider the total amount that is hidden from view. Fortunately, this kind of cleanup is becoming more popular, relieving the environment of tons of discarded and lost gear. The debris scars marine habitat and entraps and entangles marine life.
Besides the Saprito pier cleanup, Sarasota Bay Watch has partnered for cleanups at Sharkey’s Pier, the north and south Venice jetty and the Venice mooring field, as well as conducting an annual cleanup of bird rookeries. SBW also assisted cleanup efforts at an inaugural event conducted by Aqua-ventures dive group. This ambitious event covered water from the Skyway Bridge (where174 anchors were found) to Pine Island. SBW conducts island cleanups at Little Edward’s Island, the Jim Neville Preserve and Skiers Island in Sarasota and the Sister Keys in Manatee County. To take part in one of these cleanups or any other of Sarasota Bay Watch’s events, visit the website at www.sarasotabaywatch.org