NAUI will research pollution correlating with one of the largest attended events in Tampa Bay, Florida.

NAUI’s Green Diver Initiative (GDI), in collaboration with the Center for Open Exploration (C4OE), conducted a scientific survey of the downtown Tampa harbor and channel waterways on Friday, May 27.

The survey was in preparation for a diver clean-up event focused on the impact Gasparilla Festival waste, specifically plastic party beads and trinkets, have on waterways. The official clean-up project will take place April 22-28, 2017, in association with the Hillsborough Water and Soil Conservation Department’s Hillsborough 100 campaign.

The Gasparilla Festival is one of the largest attended event’s in Tampa Bay region. Each year, thousands of party beads/necklaces and other plastic trinkets are exchanged by parade participants and the public. These exchanges occur on both land and water, with many items never making it to their intended targets. Instead, they find their way to the ground, storm drains and in the harbor waters. This has lead GDI and C4OE to ask the question: ‘How do these lost festival related plastics impact our marine ecosystem?’

With cooperation from the Tampa Port Authority, Tampa Police Department, USCG and other authorities, GDI and C4OE conducted a survey, by boat, of the Tampa harbor. By using underwater cameras and other tools, the team investigated the amount of festival related plastics and other related debris in the harbor. Data was also collected to determine the water quality, currents and clarity to determine if a Green Diver clean-up event is viable in that area.

‘Our overall goals are to raise awareness in the community about the negative impact plastic waste, specificailly the trinkets thrown during the Gasparilla Festival, has on our local waterways and to help provide safe and fun alternatives,’ said GDI Manager Sam Richardson.

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Formed in 2010 by the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI Worldwide), in association with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF), the Green Diver Initiative (GDI) empowers individuals to preserve and conserve our ocean planet. GDI is open to everyone, divers and non-divers with the common goal of taking action to protect the environment. For more information, please contact Sam Richardson.