September is marked as Microplastics Awareness Month and September 18th is International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICC) for people around the world. As Floridians, coastal cleanups are essential to preserving the quality of life for not only humans, but for our aquatic friends as well. The Ocean Conservancy, a national nonprofit, started International Coastal Cleanup Day over thirty years ago with a goal to collect and document trash littered in the waterways of the world.

The Ocean Conservancy depends mostly on local partners to host cleanups around the United States and the world. This year, Florida Sea Grant is hosting four cleanups through our local extension agents covering the state of Florida. You can also form your own cleanup crew or connect with a local coordinator to join an organized cleanup through The Ocean Conservancy’s interactive map.

Clean Up With Florida Sea Grant

In Miami-Dade County

Ana Zangroniz, Miami-Dade County UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, is hosting a cleanup in partnership with Biscayne National Park. This cleanup, in particular, is unique because it’s located eight miles off the shore of Miami-Dade County. This means volunteers discover different types of debris; rather than the usual cigarette butts and straws from land-based beach cleanups, the volunteers find fishing debris such as trap buoys and trap line. However, fishing debris comes second only to plastics and microplastics. “Plastic pollution is growing, and during a recent ICC planning call, we learned that for the first time in many years, plastic items had displaced cigarette butts as the top item found,” says Zangroniz.

 

Zangroniz also talked about the danger of fish consuming these plastic pollutants, “Fish consuming plastics can have negative effects for us as human consumers, since seafood is a major part of many diets.” To learn more about Ana’s event, contact her at azangroniz@ufl.edu.

In Hernando County

Brittney Hall-Scharf, Hernando County UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, is hosting a cleanup event at Linda Pederson Park. Free t-shirts are being offered to the first 100 participants who check-in, sponsorship pending. You can find out more about this upcoming cleanup event or contact Brittany at bhallscharf@ufl.edu.

In Sarasota County

Armando Ubeda, Sarasota County UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent, is hosting a cleanup in partnership with Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, Stormwater, and Oscar Scherer State Park. In addition to removing trash, the volunteers will also aid in removing invasive plants. Contact Armando at aubeda@ufl.edu to get involved.

On The Nature Coast

Savanna Barry, Regional Specialized Sea Grant Agent, is taking part in the day as well with a cleanup at the Cedar Key City Marine. You can check out what’s happening this Saturday here. If you have any questions, contact Savanna at savanna.barry@ufl.edu.

The International Coastal Cleanup Day is unlike any other coastal cleanup because all trash that is collected is documented and taken in as data. In recent years, plastic has surpassed cigarettes as the number one pollutant, per The Ocean Conservancy. The month of September is the perfect time to get out there and get involved in creating trash free seas and giving back to the waterways that give us so much.