Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kayaker join us. Boarders join us


Marine Cleanup Initiative Inc is excited to have been awarded the contract to oversee and maintain the Spoil Islands of Martin and St Lucie Counties as well as Morris Creek and Taylor Creek for the next two years.

Although these Spoil Islands are cleaned one day a year by the Marine Industry Association of the Treasure Coast’s not-for-profit branch, Waterway Cleanup Committee, as well as the FDEP Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves’s Adopt a Spoil Island Program that also conduct monthly cleanups fromOctober to April with the help of volunteers and several state and local agencies.

MCII was lucky enough recently to participate and support a local kid paddle boarding the Lagoon to bring attention to the waterway. We found trash covering the entire 167 miles we covered. The spoil islands were the worst.

Of the islands, about half prohibit access closer than 100 feet due to birds and nesting areas. MCII will work in close conjunction with DEP and FWC and the Audubon Society to find the best times to clean these nesting places. The other islands support tons of campers and boaters who select their favorite and appear to leave it covered with their personal trash.

Our process is easy: Divers will do little to help here. We are asking kayakers, canoers and SUP boarders to join our efforts. We are having a contest to stimulate participation. We are having a party to bond and engage these new volunteers. We are conducting a spoil island cleanup and a dive cleanup on January 12 to get this all rolling.

When the season is right and we gain the “go ahead”, our shallow water crafts will get in close to the mangrove roots and branches and extract the debris with no impact on the trees or birds. Our contest is basically an opportunity to see what ideas people have to get this trash. There are no bad ideas or tools. If it works we will evaluate it for the contest.

The public islands will be cleared of debris by using kayaks around the edges and feet on the ground to get the trash gathered and removed. FWC and other agencies will join MCII’s volunteers to engage the public while on these islands and stress the need to bag their trash and pack it home for proper disposal. An information process will begin asking the public to keep the islands clean. As there are anti-litter laws on the books, well-place articles will stress there will be a two-year moratorium of fines while this education program and cleanup works to get the public involved. Information signs will be placed on the public islands asking people to bag and remove their trash and that fines will begin in 2015 if progress is not made.
These island cleanups will work in conjunction with diving removals and our boats will be used to carry the debris collected.

It is obvious the one day a year method was not working and only window dressing by the $30 billion industry to show some very limited interest in the waters that bring so much money to them.

Join our effort and continue to help make a difference in our environment and waterways. We will be seeking grants to clear the tributaries that feed into the Lagoon and hopefully, this comprehensive concept will greatly reduce the debris and maybe stimulate the Industries and public actually responsible for this trash and littering to step up and lead from behind….


Tell your friends. If you Kayak…if you have a kayak…join us. If you Standup board… join us. If you have one, join us. If you are a canoer… join us. If you can but need a craft, Lisa’s Kayaks, Dive Odyssea, Little Jim Bridge Kayak Rentals or Motorized Kayaks can help you out.

Sign up… make a cleanup device… come help…attend our party



If you are new to marine debris removal, a new diver or just joining our group, there are some things you will need and need to know.  How do we do it.  Where do we do it.  What do we need.  How do we not distroy things while we are removing debris...etc. 

Training is available, if necessary the 2nd Saturday of every month for new divers.  As new divers sign up, Capt don schedules them for these classes.  They are not just walk-ins as supplies and equipment are needed.  This coming season, on January 12th is the next class at 9am prior to our next dive.  New divers are then paired with experienced divers for an on-site in-water session.

1. Go to web site http://www.MarineCleanupInitiativeInc.Org/ and sign 2013 liability waiver;
2. Send email to to be added to list for specific dive or for notification of future dives or events. Send C card number and confirm DAN coverage.
3. Check this blog for updates and scheduled dives...

DIVERS: Complete dive suit and gear plus:
2 pounds extra weight for shallow diving compensation;
Cutting tools: sharp knife, scissors;
Dive flag, float and 25 feet of line attached;
Test all gear- things break under stress- this be stressful

DECK HANDS/BOAT WORKERS- rubber soled shoes, gloves, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses

Diver down flag to be displayed as highest point of boat;
Small tarp to lay debris bags on (keeps boat clean).

Collection bags;
We have a few old diver down flags and float for $5.00 each as is;

Divers may get air at Dive Odyssea after completing cleanup dive- mention Captain don.


Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 Oceana Ocean Hero


I spent 32 hours in the waters of Homosassa Bay this last week. There were three boats and 11 people in our group of scallop adventurers. It seemed as if I covered 1 acre each hour I was in the water….maybe more for the others as some were much younger and could see better. I noticed a few important things:

• Scallop gathering is a lot like Easter Egg Hunting, but for adults and done in 3 to 5 feet of water;

• The people of the Homosassa Springs area love people… love them being there and are really helpful and sincere;

• The waterways….dangerous at best… are super well marked and patrolled by the friendliest officers; and

• Between all of us and all of our hours under the water, we found just three beer cans….and that was all!!!

The people of Homosassa Springs love their water, respect their water, and make those who use their water want to do the same. This is successful tourism and Best Practices water management and should be part of every town that wants to be a tourist area. .

I cannot believe that we have such a large Marine Industry and Fishing Industry here and yet all they do for cleaning our waters is to follow the Clean Water Act to the letter. Is that proactive and respectful of our most important natural resource? Does a shore-line cleanup one day a year really address the amounts of debris the patrons of their industries produce? It does not touch the 11 year collection rate of MCII… that being 30,000 pound average. Our collection numbers are increasing every year. This is the wrong direction!

The Marine Industry and the Fishing Industry are not the enemies, the debris is; and the thoughtless discarding of materials into our waterways is the crime. It does not seem reasonable for these industries to whitewash this problem with a few hours of work and then a party. With the money spent on their annual post event party, MCII could fund 45 working days of actual debris removal. Is this Best Practices?

Congratulations to the people of Homosassa Springs for grasping what these businesses are missing. That being: Working together to create a mentality regarding the actual important issue… our section of this planet… over doing the least yet legal amount to get by. Come on people. Your pollution is ruining the water for everyone and your clients need some training on how to correct that. Is a little cooperation really that hard to come by?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

great news for our environment

Last Monday, Captain Don addressed Ft Pierce City Commission. First to praise the Mayor for leading the charge for our winning the Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation. But also to point out that at a recent dive along the city seawall over 900 pieces of plastic serviceware were collected. This is significant and he felt it needed to be brought to their attention. Redevelopment Director Jon Ward was sent an Email covering the same information and asking why, for a small city that had just won such an honor for water conservation, did we not require our vendors to use biodegradable serviceware. I have just been informed that on Monday, May 21, 2012, Ft Pierce City Commission will address an ordinance submitted by Director Jon Ward, requiring biodegradable serviceware to be used at all outside events here. I am proud of my City. I am excited such an action is being considered and I had some impact on this. I am proud of all my divers who have assisted over the last 11 years to make the concerns of marine debris in the forefront of local concerns. I am proud because I am pretty sure this ordinance will pass. Wow. WTG Mr Ward. WTG City Commission. And then today: I just ran into County Commission Chairperson, Chris Craft and mentioned to him about this great news on serviceware and he asked me to forward the language of the ordinance and he would present it to the county commissioners this monday for passage. OMG. This is so great.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


On Friday, March 18th, Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc’s Operation Director Captain Donald Voss loaded 16 divers and 5 bubble watchers onto a Midnight Sun bus sponsored by Open Water Products President Jack Hudson, headed to Tavernier, Florida to the Coral Restoration Foundation.

In December, Captain Don attended a National Geographic Seminar regarding the Blue Ocean Project. Local Scientist Dr Brain Lapointe and others spoke on the damage done to Florida’s coral in the 1990’after the waters and bloom coming from the Snake River Slough engulfed the Keys and killed 90% of the coral. Andy Northrop of Coral Restoration Foundation was next and spoke of the coral growth and successes this foundation was having in extending new coral areas however, they did not have enough help to complete their task before their grant ran out in July 2011. Captain Voss pulled Andy aside and offered to bring a bus of divers down if that might be of any assistance. Thus this partnership was formed.

Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc then set about to find sponsors and volunteers who might give of their own to help our reefs and plant some coral. Jack Hudson, a local Ft Pierce man who invents safety products, stepped forward and asked if he could provide the bus and attend the event. The Subway Shop on Seaway Drive provided food for the trip on the way down. Harbor Branch provided water for the trip and dive. Otherwise, divers paid their own way to attend this vital planting.

As Ft Pierce’s Re-Development Director, Jon Ward works with local groups to more extensively establish an Ecotourism Board and Industry, MCII had divers from Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Marine Life Center, as well as from Sebastian, Cleveland, San Francisco as well as Ft Pierce, all coming here to travel and save Florida’s precious reefs.

Since December, Andy was replaced at CRF by Kevin Gaines, a Vero Beach resident and another passionate supporter of our oceans. Along with Dan Dawson of Horizon Dive Center and the Key West Inn of Tavernier, the trip was arranged and it was fantastic. There was not a single hitch in this rapidly staged event as every one of these organizations is totally professional.
Rooms were around $120.00. Diving was $56.00 per dive. Entrance to the Coral Garden is $25 per day. The Bus was $100 per person.

Saturday morning all volunteers attended a lecture and briefing session at the Holiday Inn, a short distance down the road, where the volunteers were educated with the information Captain Don witnessed in December. The mid-morning session was a hands-on training class held out of water yet simulating the cleaning process and layout of the garden. The afternoon was filled with a two tank dive to prepare coral “plugs” for transplanting the next day.

The growing process has evolved over the years and as a result of differing conditions such as the cold spells of the last few years. Coral is generally very sensitive to temperature and water clarity issues and many baby corals died from those cold spells. Also, as processes changed, different shapes and techniques were employed. Volunteers absorbed all in preparation for the event.

Captain Don had a two sided reason for heading to Tavernier. Habitat Restoration is a large part of the NOAA grant MCII received and it is important to learn any and every technique out there. Training and certification for Marine Debris and Habitat Restoration are a large part of the grant process; as is the education of divers and citizens.

And then the second side… and this is where Ft Pierce comes into play. It is widely believed that coral formations do not traditionally exist north of Jupiter, Florida due to water temperature, yet MCII volunteers, some lifelong local diver’s state they know of stands of coral in our area. Kevin Gaines became very excited to learn this and asked that we document this coral as to depth, species report this back to CRF. If our coral matches, this might be a way to strengthen the gene pool with coral more resistant to cold waters.

Sunday, another class and training session was held to teach the actual process for transplanting the coral from the garden to Molasses Reef to re-establish the coral there.

Rows of coral babies awaiting trans- CRF has developed a line hanging
planting using the original solid base system as used in black pearl farms to
system. allow better circulation of nutrients.

A baby planted on the reef with ID tag next Here, now underwater, the same babies are
to it. waiting to be planted.

Once transported, a two part epoxy is used to secure the corals, three different genotypes grouped together, to use as a monitoring and research process. A plaque ID’ing this information is places by each genotype.

Although the work was labor intense and the conditions were less than stellar, MCII divers worked in four 4-person teams to place and secure all the babies and then take a few minutes to enjoy the reef and the life there. The knowledge learned will return with us to Ft Pierce for promotion of our marine life.

The entire trip and demand to attend the next trip has caused MCII to start looking for additional sponsors and a good date that works for CRF. MCII will start their spring operations soon working to remove 17 derelict vessels as well as fulfill obligations to South Florida Water Management District’s Snook Plate Grant Program who is funding lagoon cleanup from Ft Pierce City Marine to St Lucie Inlet and the on-going NOAA grant who continues to fund the cleanup from Sebastian Inlet to Ft Pierce City Marina. Without these funds, MCII would not be able to continue this valuable work of debris removal and habitat restoration.

Water Warriors from Open Water Products, Loggerhead Marine Life Center, Coral Restoration Foundation and Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc. after the final day of our coral planting adventure.

I would be untruthful, if I did not take a few seconds and talk about the marine life and their interest in our efforts. On the first dive, fish seemed to stay at arms length. There are many cleaning stations in this garden. A cleaning station is a place where shrimps and small fish assist larger fish. Cleaning station fish, which have a symbiotic relationship with larger fish, climb onto large fish and eat parasites from their mouths and body. This must be a very relaxing process, because the larger fish appear to be most docile during these times. It is unique that there appears to be no fear or cheating when the shrimps and crabs at these stations crawl in and out of their mouths and all over these fish.

When first we appeared, the fish of all sizes were nervous and stayed at great distance. As we cleaned and worked and moved into our second tank dive, the nervous period ended. I had small shrimps crawl onto my arm and wait there while I cleaned the coral groves. Small wrasses and grunts would swim in and around my hands snatching up any food matter available to help in the effort. Our experiences on the reef the next day were similar. As soon as coral was secured, tiny tropicals came out nowhere to investigate and see if they had found a new home. We had turtles and rays and hog snappers cruise on through the area checking out what was happening. Men using picks and chisels must be rare underwater. It was all just too overwhelming.

None of this could have been possible without the help of the volunteers and the kind infusions of our sponsors. Thanks to everyone and especially to Coral Restoration Foundation for the great work they are doing. Our next trip will be mid-May, so call and save a space for this unique experience.

Follow our upcoming events and cleanup schedule at: www.MarineCleanupInitiativeInc.Org

Next Cleanup Dives: Friday April 8, 2011 - dive at Sebastian Inlet North side for Turtle Fest on April 9 – 3:00pm at Loggerhead Marine Life Center.

Saturday May 14, 2011- Nearshore Hardbottom with Coastal Tech cleanup from Sebastian 9am – 3pm, weather permitting.

Tuesday June 7, 2011 – 4pm – dive at South Causeway Bridge Park for
World Ocean Day at Loggerhead MarineLife Center 10am -3pm.

Saturday July 16, 2011 – Noon – Ft Pierce and Sebastian Inlet Maintenance Cleanup Dive

We have May 6-8 or May 20-22 available for another Tavernier trip if space is available.

REMEMBER TO MARK YOUR CALENDARS -WETFEST is June 25, 2011 at Museum Pointe in South Causeway Park from 11-9. For information: www.MarineCleanupInitiativeInc.Org/Wetfest.html

Captain Don
Operations Director
Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc.

Marine Cleanup Initiative PSA-1

build up of plastics has grown

Science & Environment In association with HomeUS & CanadaLatin AmericaUKAfricaAsiaEuropeMid-EastBusinessHealthSci/EnvironmentTechEntertainmentVideo Advertisement 8 May 2012 Last updated at 21:01 ET Share this pageEmail Print Share this page 1.6KShareFacebookTwitter. Big rise in North Pacific plastic waste By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News The Scripps team trawled the surface of the ocean for floating debris Continue reading the main story Related StoriesWhat should be done about plastic bags?Can oceans be cleared of plastic?Voyage confirms plastic pollution The quantity of small plastic fragments floating in the north-east Pacific Ocean has increased a hundred fold over the past 40 years. Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography documented the big rise when they trawled the waters off California. They were able to compare their plastic "catch" with previous data for the region. The group reports its findings in the journal Biology Letters. "We did not expect to find this," says Scripps researcher Miriam Goldstein. "When you go out into the North Pacific, what you find can be highly variable. So, to find such a clear pattern and such a large increase was very surprising," she told BBC News. All the plastic discarded into the ocean that does not sink will eventually break down. Sunlight and the action of the waves will degrade and shred the material over time into pieces the size of a fingernail, or smaller. An obvious concern is that this micro-material could be ingested by marine organisms, but the Scripps team has noted another, perhaps unexpected, consequence. The fragments make it easier for the marine insect Halobates sericeus to lay its eggs out over the ocean. These "sea skaters" or "water striders" - relatives of pond water skaters - need a platform for the task. Normally, this might be seabird feathers, tar lumps or even pieces of pumice rock. But it is clear from the trawl results that H. sericeus has been greatly aided by the numerous plastic surfaces now available to it in the Pacific. The fragments are tiny - about 5mm in diameter, or less The team found a strong association between the presence of Halobates and the micro-plastic in a way that was just not evident in the data from 40 years ago. Ms Goldstein explained: "We thought there might be fewer Halobates if there's more plastic - that there might be some sort of toxic effect. But, actually, we found the opposite. In the areas that had the most plastic, we found the most Halobates. "So, they're obviously congregating around this plastic, laying their eggs on it, and hatching out from it. For Halobates, all this plastic has worked out well for them." The micro-plastic has been a boon to one marine invertebrate - Halobates sericeus Ms Goldstein and colleagues gathered their information on the abundance of micro-plastic during the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (Seaplex) off California in 2009. They then compared their data with those from other scientific cruises, including archived records stretching back to the early 1970s. Plastic waste in the North Pacific is an ongoing concern. The natural circulation of water - the North Pacific Gyre - tends to retain the debris in reasonably discrete, long-lived collections, which have popularly become known as "garbage patches". In the north-eastern Pacific, one of these concentrations is seen in waters between Hawaii and California. This Scripps study follows another report by colleagues at the institution that showed 9% of the fish collected during the same Seaplex voyage had plastic waste in their stomachs. That investigation, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, estimated the fish at intermediate ocean depths in the North Pacific Ocean could be ingesting plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tonnes per year. Crabs, barnacles, sea anemones and hydroids make a home on a piece of discarded rope Toxicity is the issue most often raised in relation to this type of pollution, but Ms Goldstein and colleagues say broader ecosystem effects also need to be studied. The abundance of ocean debris will influence the success, or otherwise, of "rafting communities" - those species that are specifically adapted to life on or around objects floating in the water. Larger creatures would include barnacles and crabs, and even fish that like to live under some kind of cover, but large-scale change would likely touch even the smallest organisms. "The study raises an important issue, which is the addition of hard surfaces to the open ocean," says Ms Goldstein. "In the North Pacific, for example, there's no floating seaweed like there is in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic. And we know that the animals, the plants and the microbes that live on hard surfaces are different to the ones that live floating around in the water. "So, what plastic has done is add hundreds of millions of hard surfaces to the Pacific Ocean. That's quite a profound change." Ms Goldstein's co-authors were Marci Rosenberg, a student at the University of California Los Angeles, and Scripps research biologist emeritus Lanna Cheng

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It sort of speaks for its' self. We are supposed to be learning here...evolving... doing a better job. Join the Eco-adventure diving of MCII and help take hold of our environment and get it back on track. Join the thousands of kids who want to have a clean ocean when they grow up...a clean ocean they can take their children to and not catch needles and garbage, but the snooks and groupers we used to catch in droves.

Take some time and help the supporters of MCII to make a difference. We will be working in four counties this year. Cleaning four inlets and 96 miles of the Indian River Lagoon. Our cleanup season starts in just a few weeks. We have big plans... Last year, with the help of 400 volunteers, we reached the magical and unbelievable mark of 300,000 pounds and by years end, we will reach 400,000 pounds maybe even 450,000 pounds. It depends on your help and good weather. We want 500,000 pounds...after all, the world is supposed to end this winter. We don't want it dirty when we check out.

We would need to remove all 16 derelict vesels we have tagged to be removed and clear the three areas of mid to large debris we have identified to reach 500,000 pounds. That will require the help of all our voluteers and then some.

Come out on April 7th to Riverside Ft Pierce between the Ft Pierce Yacht Club and the Backus Gallery to the Oyster Festival and locate our booth....look for the stunning Oyster mascot...that will be Captain Don. He lost a bet, so he will be that adorable Oyster...ask him to see the pearl. He loves that.

Stop by the MCII booth and sign up. Learn about our activities and our upcoming events. Donate a little time on the water and find out why people from all over America are coming to Ft Pierce to learn just how we do what we do...why we do what we do. And just why it is so darned important.


The Staff of MCII

Saturday, February 11, 2012

MCII Volunteer outshines her adult counterparts

Missy, Lilly and Trent Tougas - Six degrees of separation
By Tania Ortega-Cowan

Friday, February 3, 2012

When ocean conservationist Sylvia Earle, TIME Magazine’s first-named “Hero for the Planet” (1998), gave her presentation last September at Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Marine’s Center’s 2011 Go Blue Awards banquet, she included in her visual presentation a photo of a cupcake.

“This might look like a cupcake to you,” she told the crowd, “but this cupcake means hope for the future because Lilly Tougas makes them for the planet and sells them for conservation.”

Missy and Lilly Tougas were finalists for the Blue Ambassador Award at the awards banquet. Sylvia Earle first heard about Lilly through internationally-famous conservation artist Wyland.

Lilly, a friend of Wyland, has spoken to Congress, traveled to China, raised funds to bring Wyland’s Mobile Learning Center to the Treasure Coast - the list goes on.

Oh! And Lilly is 11 years old.

“I just really always liked the earth and had compassion for everybody for as long as I can remember.” she says confidently.

Lilly’s mother Missy grew up just a mile from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. “As a child I was given a world ocean education, learning about aquaculture and ocean science. It was what we did for fun.”

Missy now volunteers with a number of groups including Ocean Rehab, Marine Clean-up Initiative and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. When Wyland came to Harbor Branch in 2007 for a youth art event, daughter Lilly met him and forged a friendship.

Missy says, “Lilly told him ‘I am with you on this mission!’ He then invited her to Sea World for a project. Next he invited her and only three other children from the United States to Beijing, China for his 100th Whaling Wall Project during the 2008 Olympics. He gave her a medal and said she is a Youth Ambassador for the Planet and told her to go home and take action.”

And so she did.

“You have to encourage children,” she says. “If they have ideas, you need to listen and empower their ideas.”

She decided to open a lemonade stand outside a grocery store, and as she made money, she would go in and buy the reusable grocery bags and then give them to her lemonade customers. Next, she designed art for the bags and sold them to raise money to go to Beijing. Then she started her Cupcakes for the Planet campaign to bring in Wyland’s Mobile Learning Center.

Wyland invited Lilly to Washington DC for a FOCUS event (Forests, Ocean, Climate and Us), a nationwide campaign in partnership with the U.S. Forestry Service, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Wyland Foundation. There she spoke in front of Congress.

Lilly’s six-year old brother Trent is also involved. For his birthday party he held a beach clean-up. In fact, the family has organized numerous beach clean-ups including ‘The Mayor’s Beach Cleanups’ all along the Treasure Coast.

Involved with Vero Classical Ballet, Lilly’s new idea is “Dancing for the Planet.” With her connections, she plans to make it an international event.

You go, girl!