By Troy Brown, President, and Cheryl Huntsinger, Vice President – Suncoast Aqua Ventures
Over the past few months several eco-minded people and organizations have combined efforts to beautify our coastline and underwater habitat by participating in cleanups organized by Suncoast Aqua Ventures. Participants have been successfully removing trash and human debris and making a positive impact on the delicate ecosystem.
In the morning of August 24 and after approximately two (2) months of planning and coordination, 30 volunteers (26 divers and 4 topside) from the eight groups set off from 10th St. Boat Ramp in Sarasota after a safety briefing and conducted an underwater cleanup at Alan Fisher Artificial Reef as part of the first annual Alan Fisher Joint Reef Cleanup.
It was exciting to see numerous organizations from Venice, Sarasota, and Bradenton all provide volunteers for this worthy effort. It was also inspirational to see so many different age groups represented and united by the desire to improve our local waters and ecosystem.
The work itself is often times hard and dirty and can be exhausting in the Florida heat. Trash can take many forms including metal, wood, fishing line, rope, anchors, tackle, bottles, cans, styrofoam, and all forms of plastic. Whether it be washed up in the mangroves, or in the depths underwater, this work serves a purpose of beautifying our coastline and marine habitat visually as well as providing a safer environment for the many animal species that inhabit these areas.
Although we will never return our coastline to the pristine way it was before we humans arrived, conducting these cleanups helps counteract the negative impact humans have had.
Volunteers of all ages, race and social status set out with a sense of unity and pride that they were doing something good for our precious environment. Where water and land come together there is always the threat of humans littering and trash being washed up and pushed ashore by wind and waves. Having like-minded people willing to help remove it is critical and priceless.
These cleanups would not be possible without the monetary support of organizations like Restoring Americas Estuaries. The volunteers are provided with all the tools needed for a successful clean up event, including gloves, bags, trash pickers, and snacks and refreshments. It also provides the organizers the ability to market these events, and to pay for services we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to make these events possible.
With every cleanup we build more awareness and more cooperation amongst our volunteers with the common goal of beautifying our coastline and removing items harmful to native species of fish, plants, and animals.
Caring for our Coasts has provided huge motivation essential to our success as the volunteer base grows and as environmental awareness and cooperation increases with every event. We are grateful for the positive impact we’ve had and what Restoring Americas Estuaries has provided for funding to Suncoast Aqua Ventures to make this all possible.