Removing deadly debris in Florida

Kayakers at Redington PierPost by Shannon Miller and Elizabeth Fleming from Defenders’ Florida program.

At 10:00am on Monday September 20th, Defenders of Wildlife staff and volunteers met at the Redington Long Pier on Redington Shores Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida for another coastal cleanup. We joined Ocean Conservancy, who had organized the event, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the Florida Aquarium dive team. Due to an increase in the number of sea turtle entanglements under this pier, we would be targeting underwater marine debris and monofilament fishing line.  Defenders’ duty was to help coordinate the kayakers. We had four single-person kayaks assigned to monitor the dive teams while three 2-person kayaks were deployed to help collect monofilament under the pier and transport debris brought up from the divers back to shore. Kayak full of debris

When we arrived, all of the abandoned monofilament line and hooks could be seen hanging from the pier like tinsel on a Christmas tree. One pelican flew over our kayak with fishing line dangling from its wing. Unfortunately, the bird flew away so we were unable to rescue it and remove the line.

In less than four hours we collected over 550 pounds (!!) of monofilament line, fishing hooks, fishing lures, and an assortment of marine debris including pipe, rope, crab traps, beach chairs, scissors, pliers, sunglasses, cell phones and a sledgehammer!

We also recovered a dead cormorant that must have swum under the pier after a fish and become entangled. It was a sad reminder of exactly why we do these cleanups and the type of threats to our wildlife that we are trying to prevent. There were Dead cormorant, Redingtonso many beautiful cormorants, pelicans, gulls and terns diving and swimming in the water next to the pier, it is hard not to worry about each of them getting entangled.

THANK YOU to everyone that was involved in making this event such a success! Especially to all of our volunteers that came out on such a beautiful Monday morning to help us and to all of the groups involved: Ocean Conservancy, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the Florida Aquarium dive team. We would also like to thank USF St. Petersburg for donating the kayaks for this event. Without all of you this event would not have been possible. Looking forward to the next cleanup!