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No more out of sight, out of mind

Published on January 25th, 2020

While trash on the ground is a reminder of negligence, on the water it’s more out of sight, out of mind. But with efforts educating us how ocean trash is impacting the environment, particularly our food, efforts are underway to make a difference.

In the spotlight is the Gasparilla Pirate Festival, held almost every year since in Tampa, Florida. It’s quite the party on land and on Tampa Bay where Gasparilla revelers have a habit of throwing the event’s trademark plastic beads during a parade on Tampa Bay.

But for the 2020 edition on January 25, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor made historical changes by announcing a bead-free initiative for Gasparilla. Annual dives after the festival attempt to capture the non-biodegradable debris, and Castor launched #BeadFreeBay to stop the madness.

The next occasion on Marc Hughston’s calendar is Valentine’s Day as he prepares to deal with the extra waste like Mylar balloons that end up in the ocean near his home in Long Beach, CA

That’s why Hughston will head out to sea at 10am on February 15 — the day after Valentine’s Day — to collect whatever balloons he comes across. And he’s encouraging all other sailors to do the same. In the lead up to his balloon-collecting endeavor, he will also try to get yacht clubs and sailing groups to organize their own on-the-water trash pick-up.

“We’ll get more done if people act independently and head out on their own,” Hughston said. “As many boats we can get out there, the faster we can collect balloons before they make it even further out there.”

In his job as owner and sailing instructor of Santana Sailing, Hughston routinely uses floating trash in his sailing classes, showing students how to sail the boat in the direction of balloons or other trash and pick them up. He’s been pulling balloons out of the water, Hughston said, since 1998 or 1999.

Still, he added, he was particularly surprised at just how many Mylar balloons were in the water after Mother’s Day last year.

“We were coming from Catalina and heading into Newport Beach and we just could not believe how many balloons were just floating around,” Hughston said. “And they were all Mother’s Day balloons; they just recently made it onto the water.

“It affected me seeing all of those balloons,” he said. “When you see them in the grocery store, you don’t think too much about it. But when you’re seeing them in the water and you’re pulling out 12 balloons, you realize how much we are able to negatively impact our oceans very quickly.”

Source: Scuttlebutt, Press-Telegram

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