The Green Diver Initiative recently partnered with various groups to host its second annual Gasp–Our Beads of Tampa Bay Cleanup and Survey along the Seddon Channel off of Davis Islands in downtown Tampa, Florida.
Over 60 people including eight boats, nine kayaks and paddleboards, 27 divers, eight snorkelers and 12 topside support volunteers gathered that 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 byproduct of festivals and parades — impact the water quality of Tampa Bay.
GDI, The Florida Aquarium, Center for Open Exploration, St. Pete Makers, NAUI Worldwide and the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District supported the event.
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.
Tara Henson, the Florida Aquarium’s Director for Marketing and Communications, said:
“The Florida Aquarium is proud to support both the Center for Open Exploration and GDI in their Gasp–Our Beads Cleanup and Survey. 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.”
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.
GDI Manager Amanda O’Connor said:
“As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village,’ and thankfully that’s what we had today. 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.”
NAUI instructor and Gasp–Our Beads co-coordinator Angie Cowan said:
“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.”
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/135 kilos of beads from an area approximately 1,700 feet/518 meters in length and 150 feet/46 meters in width out from the seawall of Channel Drive. Other items of interest collected include a crutch, a lawn chair, and a bronze statue of Ganesh.