ReelCycle assists in Tony Saprito Fishing Pier Cleanup

SARASOTA, November 19, 2016 -  Sarasota Bay Watch and partners conducted an underwater cleanup at the Tony Saprito Pier in Sarasota. Participation swelled to over 60 volunteers as vacationers, fishermen from the Tony Saprito Pier and passerbys joined the effort.

Seven hundred and fifty pounds of debris was collected including fishing line, fishing poles, tires, crab traps, a laptop computer, three cell phones, street signs, anchors and cast nets. Participants also found a variety of marine life including three octopi, brittle stars, puffers, sea urchins, green muscles, and stone crabs.

In total over 750 pounds of debris was collected and brought back to a staging area under the Ringling Bridge. Twenty-five pounds of fishing line, 205 pounds of lead and 141 pounds of nets were separated, weighed and measured. The information gathered is shared with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine and Debris Program and the Ocean Conservancy.

ReelCycle was able to dispose of most of the debris, including the nets, in their Fishing for Energy Program (FEP). The FEP is a partnership of NOAA, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy, and Schnitzer Steel. The FEP has sites in 10 states and 48 ports and has collected over three million pounds of discarded fishing gear.

Partners included local volunteers, the Sarasota Police Department Underwater Search and Rescue Dive Team, SRQ Fire Department, city of Sarasota Sustainability Program, the Suncoast Reef Rovers, Aqua-Ventures Dive Team, the New College Bull Sharks Dive Team and a group of citizen divers organized by Al Jefferies of Scuba Quest.

The divers were assisted by volunteers in kayaks and police and fire department boats who transported the debris they collected to the staging area. Volunteers also were stationed on the pier, where they helped divers, collected discarded line and other debris. Many of those assisting the effort were high school students who received volunteer hours for their participation. One of the most rewarding moments of the cleanup was watching children as they released marine life from nets, fishing line and other debris.

The amount of debris collected during the cleanup was sobering when you consider the total amount that is hidden from view. Fortunately, this kind of cleanup is becoming more popular, relieving the environment of tons of discarded and lost gear. The debris scars marine habitat and entraps and entangles marine life.