ST. PETERSBURG – Volunteers are needed to help celebrate National Estuaries Day on Saturday, Sept. 28, by participating in a land- and sea-based cleanup of Tampa Bay.
There are two ways volunteers may participate:
• Tampa Bay Watch is recruiting volunteers to clean the shorelines of Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde; and the Sunshine Skyway on Saturday, Sept. 28, 9 a.m. to noon.
• Tampa Bay Watch in partnership with Audubon Florida is asking volunteer boaters to independently clean Tampa Bay’s colonial bird nesting islands and shorelines to reduce the threat of entanglement of marine animals as part of the 20th Annual Monofilament Cleanup.
National Estuaries Day is the nation’s largest volunteer event for estuaries in our country and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the first event. This year’s NED is focusing on the connections between estuaries and the economy. With growing concern about our nation’s financial health, it is important to recognize the value that protecting and restoring estuaries delivers to the national economy. In fact, coastal counties provide more than half the nation’s gross domestic product and supports more than 69 million jobs – that’s about 40 percent of U.S. employment.
NED is an annual celebration of the vibrant and essential coastal areas where rivers meet the sea. Taking place on the last Saturday of September each year, NED is a terrific opportunity to learn more about estuaries and the perfect excuse to spend a day on the bay. Tampa Bay Watch sees this event as an opportunity to clean up marine debris that accumulates before it floats into Tampa Bay, protecting wildlife from unnecessary injury or death.
“Coastal cleanups are a great way to locally deal with an international problem,” said Martha Gruber in a press release. Gruber is an environmental scientist for Tampa Bay Watch. Since 2001, more than 20,000 pounds of debris have been collected, including items like Styrofoam cups, construction debris, car batteries, and countless cigarette butts, party balloons and plastic bags.
Abandoned fishing line is a significant mortality factor in bird colonies. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists have identified fishing line as the number one killer of adult Brown Pelicans.
“Florida’s coastal birds face increasing pressures from habitat loss, human disturbance, and predation; removing fishing line is an easy way to increase their chances of survival,” said Mark Rachal, Audubon Florida sanctuary manager. “Pelicans, egrets, herons and other iconic coastal birds need our help. Join us on Sept. 28 to make a difference.”
Although estimates of the total annual impact are imprecise, hundreds and possibly thousands of birds die annually in Florida from this unnecessary cause.
Volunteers are provided with equipment and data sheets for removing and documenting Fishing line found at assigned cleanup locations. Additionally, volunteers are instructed on how to free entangled live birds they may encounter during the cleanup and where to transport the injured bird.
National Estuaries Day is spearheaded by Restore America's Estuaries, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1995 as an alliance of 11 community-based conservation organizations working to protect and restore the vital habitats of our nation’s estuaries.
“Since we’re seeing proposals at the national level to dramatically cut or eliminate funding for coastal habitat protection and restoration, we encourage groups to educate citizens about the role healthy coasts play in supporting the economy,” said Jeff Benoit, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “Federal coastal restoration programs deliver real benefits to local communities – for every $1 million invested in habitat restoration, as many as 30 jobs are created – that’s several times more than traditional gray infrastructure investments.”