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International Coastal Cleanup—Stories About the Impacts of Marine Debris Kick Off Community Cleanup Along Florida's Tampa Bay

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Barbara Howard, Kameran Onley, Keith Ramos
Above: Partners working on a common goal, (left to right) Barbara Howard (Friends of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex), Kameran Onley (U.S. Department of the Interior), and Keith Ramos (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) prepare to head out and participate in cleanup activities. [larger version]

Peter Clark, Kameran Onley, and Keith Ramos
Above: (Left to right) Peter Clark (Tampa Bay Watch), Kameran Onley (U.S. Department of the Interior), and Keith Ramos (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), armed with boathooks and keen eyes, are ready to retrieve fishing line from the mangrove trees of Little Bird Key. This rookery island, part of Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, is normally off limits to human activity to reduce disturbance to the nesting birds. [larger version]

David White demonstrates the invisible threat that fishing line poses when it becomes tangled in the vegetation of natural areas
Above: David White (Ocean Conservancy) demonstrates the invisible threat that fishing line poses when it becomes tangled in the vegetation of natural areas. [larger version]

Keith Ramos, Deputy Refuge Manager for Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, uses a boathook and clippers to retrieve fishing line from mangroves
Above: Keith Ramos, Deputy Refuge Manager for Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, uses a boathook and clippers to retrieve fishing line from mangroves on Little Bird Key. [larger version]
Kameran Onley shared a moving story about baby goony birds living in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean, which were fed plastic marine debris gathered by their well-intentioned parents. Onley, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Water and Science with the U.S. Department of the Interior, wanted to show how marine debris can travel far and wide and have far-reaching effects: "Debris can go anywhere. It can make its way to even the most remote, protected areas and is very harmful to many kinds of marine life. When I visited the new Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument located in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, I saw all kinds of trash labeled in languages that showed it had come from all over the world. What was most appalling to me was that these baby birds had died, and inside their decaying bodies you could see the bits of plastic that their parents had fed them. It's hard to hear about such atrocious things, but seeing the plastic through the skin of the dead baby birds was a life-changing experience for me. We humans have far greater impact on our world than we could ever imagine." She shared this story with a group of volunteers preparing to participate in the annual International Coastal Cleanup on the shore of Florida's Tampa Bay on Saturday, September 20, 2008.

Another story, from David White, Director of Ocean Conservancy's Southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Region, told about a concerned citizen in Texas who organized a small group in 1986 to conduct a coastal cleanup on Padre Island—a local community effort that over the past 20 years has evolved into a worldwide International Coastal Cleanup. White used this story to emphasize how community efforts "can also have positive far-reaching effects."

Onley made the trip to the Tampa Bay area to participate in the cleanup within Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, part of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Keith Ramos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Deputy Refuge Manager of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, echoed the thoughts of Onley and White and was proud to take part in the local cleanup activity, which is "vital to protecting these important wildlife preserves."

The volunteers also watched a 30-second public-service announcement, created by the AdCouncil, that features Walt Disney Pictures' Ariel, the Little Mermaid, and stresses that "No matter where you live, life in the ocean depends on you… To help protect our ocean, recycle and dispose of your trash properly." (View the announcement at URL http://www.keepoceansclean.org/ads/).

Martha Garcia of Tampa Bay Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring Tampa Bay, provided materials, logistical information, and safety tips to the volunteers before they headed out to various sites throughout the refuge and nearby Fort De Soto Park.

Peter Clark, Director of Tampa Bay Watch, hosted the event at Tampa Bay Watch's facility in Tierra Verde, Florida. His organization provided boats and equipment that enabled special groups to get to areas farther into the refuge, ordinarily beyond the access of boats and humans. Onley, White, Ramos, and Ann Tihansky (U.S. Geological Survey [USGS]) worked with Clark to remove monofilament from nesting areas on Little Bird Key, a rookery island normally off limits to human activity. "We think a lot of this fishing line is brought here by the birds that have gotten tangled up in fishing areas," said Clark. "Other birds land here and get tangled and trapped. Keith and I selected this area so that we could get in here and clean up the fishing line, to prevent more birds from getting entangled. This area also illustrates why it's so important to educate fisherman to properly dispose of fishing line and remove it from the birds when they're caught accidentally."

When all the volunteers reconvened after 3 hours of cleaning up, they had gathered more than 1,200 lb of trash. Nearly 300 in number, the volunteers included participants from the Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges, USFWS, USGS, Tampa Bay Watch, Ocean Conservancy, U.S. Coast Guard, and public citizens—all of whom turned out to spend the day along the shores of Tampa Bay, watching wildlife up close and helping to make their world a better place.

International Coastal Cleanup is coordinated by Ocean Conservancy which also publishes annual reports about cleanup activities and the types and amounts of trash collected; learn more at "Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup."

Local efforts are coordinated by such community-based groups as Keep Pinellas Beautiful, which promotes litter removal, recycling, and litter-prevention education; and Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges, which supports the refuges in Tampa Bay through community outreach and interaction.

Related Web Sites
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument
marine conservation area
International Coastal Cleanup
Ocean Conservancy
Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex
non-profit organization
Tampa Bay Watch
non-profit organization
Ocean Conservancy
non-profit organization
Keep Pinellas Beautiful
non-profit organization
Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges
non-profit organization

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cover story:
Scientists Discover New Pacific Iguana

Tracking Sea Otters

Research Sea-Otter Decline Affects Kelp Forests and Eagles

Outreach International Coastal Cleanup

Awards Norling Receives Diversity Award

Publications November 2008 Publications List

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