The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has released a report on the marine debris removal work it supported in 2020 at the Florida Keys and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuaries.
The report details the program highlights, including the launch of “Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands” in the summer of 2020. Overall, the Foundation supported the removal of 13,002 lbs (5,898 kilos) of debris from 12,000 square meters (129,167 square feet) of underwater area and 2.5 miles (4km) of shoreline in national marine sanctuaries.
One indicator of the program’s success after three years of work is that dive shops in the Florida Keys have reported having to go to deeper reefs in order to find marine debris at sites, according to the foundation.
In both the Florida Keys and Channel Islands, support from the Goal: Clean Seas program helped replace a portion of lost tourist income for tourism industry operators that have seen their businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sarah Fangman, Superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, said:
“Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has developed a go-to team of reef stewards by educating Blue Star dive operators on best practices for debris removal, including advance reconnaissance dives, permitting, recycling and post-dive analysis and reporting. I am grateful for the leadership and commitment of Blue Star operators and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation who are meeting our goal of clean seas in the Florida Keys.”
And according to Sean Hastings, Policy, Management and Information Officer at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary:
“Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands is making a real difference in abating marine debris in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary with the support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and commercial fishermen, tourism operators and local conservation organization partners. Together, we are literally carrying our weight as measured in the tremendous amount of marine debris removed from the sanctuary.”
In the Florida Keys, the foundation announced it will grant funds for underwater marine debris removal to 10 Blue Star Dive Operators in 2021. The foundation is granting a total of US$51,621/~43,062 Euros for scoping and removal dives in the Keys in 2021 through a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
Sara Rankin, Florida Keys chapter director for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said:
“The purpose of Goal: Clean Seas is to empower the community to act as stewards of the environment. The coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are still suffering from the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, but our results over the past year show that we are making progress. I am proud that our eight Blue Star Dive Operator partners removed 4,642 lbs of debris and 9,339 feet of line last year, and I know we can accomplish even more with 10 dive operators now on board. We look forward to working with all of these outstanding dive operators to protect and restore our treasured reefs.”
You can check out the foundation’s report here.