Marine debris has become an increasing problem impacting Florida’s wildlife and habitats. In early 2017 FWC and Florida DEP released a draft version of the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan for stakeholder review and input. This document was created after 3 years and several meetings of multiple collaborating agencies and non-profits including Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota. The purpose of the Marine Debris Reduction Guidance is to highlight strategies and actions to achieve desired goals – reducing impacts on wildlife and critical habitats.
Ms. Bassos-Hull, a Senior Biologist at Mote also currently serves as co-lead of the Wildlife
and Habitats Impacts Group within this guidance plan and is working with SPC’s Dr Erin Goergen to bring this work to Pinellas County. SPC’s STEM Center at Bay Pines is pleased to be their initial location.
Why? One critical need that was addressed in this plan was to identify trends and hot spots by collecting data on marine debris in specified areas. The areas around St Pete College and the new marine lab provide excellent areas to engage students in targeted collection of marine debris data (and to participate in cleanups) along with asking students to brainstorm debris reduction measures and outreach in the community. Students have begun training
to conduct marine debris surveys and cleanups using the Marine Debris Tracker App and identify problem area hotspots. Communication of results to community and regional park and waste managers will be required of students through a CAPstone (Community Awareness Project). While this proposed research is a start, eventually it can be expanded to look for microplastics in both gut contents of fish and invertebrates as well as in water samples from around the St Pete area.