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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Volunteers remove debris from Ballast Point Park

BALLAST POINT — The divers took to the water and soon were surfacing with fishing lines, nets, plastic bottles and even a bicycle.

On shore, Cub Scouts and others picked up toys, cigar wrappers, cups and more plastic.

By the end of the day, volunteers had collected hundreds of pounds of debris at Ballast Point Park, a site for the Sept. 21 International Coast Cleanup Day. The cleanup, on land and in the water, was overseen by the South Tampa-based Tampa Bay Green Consortium.

The consortium is a 2-year old nonprofit founded by Dan and Christine Fisher and friend Adam Trainor

“We are a low-key behind the scenes organization,” said Dan Fisher, 53, president and chief executive officer.

Fisher, who served 24 years in the Navy and now is an IT scientist, said the organization seeks to partner with other environmental organizations for projects, initiatives and education.

Christine Fisher, 44, already was a volunteer with The Florida Aquarium, working in its sea turtle rescue program, and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful. Dan Fisher had started working on diving for debris programs, where certified divers cleaned water near piers.

The couple had started post-Gasparilla cleanups on Bayshore Boulevard four years ago with 12 volunteers; last year, 150 people showed up to help remove trash.

Fisher said the nonprofit was just a natural evolution and development from their previous work.

At the Sept. 21 cleanup, 50 volunteers dove along the Ballast Point pier or walked the shoreline.

Among those helping were Casey Ratcliffe, who stayed on shore, while her husband, Matt, an airman at MacDill Air Force Base, manned a kayak, where divers loaded debris from the water.

“We are from the Chesapeake Bay area and have seen the work that has been done there,” Casey Ratcliffe, said. “We were looking for a way to do the same here.”

Matt Ratcliffe said he just liked “to help out” as divers loaded some of the 385 pounds of marine debris they recovered onto his kayak.

Fisher said the final list included 232 fishing lines, 74 weights, 48 fishing hooks, 14 various types of cast nets (some with weights), 23 glass bottles, 14 aluminum cans, 10 knives and more than 160 pounds of metal, rubber, plastic and glass fragments. The most unusual items included a bicycle, four cell phones and a computer laptop.

The landside cleanup team also included the Webelos dragon patrol from Cub Scout Pack 53, Dale Mabry Elementary, led by den leader Michael Haselton.

“It’s a good thing for the environment to be participating; and it’s a good way to teach the boys about being safe around trash,” Haselton said.

Dan Fisher said the group’s goal is to clean around 32 major fishing piers in the Tampa Bay area — and to clean them multiple times. He hopes to recruit more business sponsors to help with expenses of expanding the organization. World of Water Dive Shop now provides equipment and tanks of air to the divers, he said.

Fisher said he never knows what a dive cleanup will bring. The strangest thing they found was an urn with the deceased’s ashes sealed inside. It had marking from Thailand but no way to identify it.

“We returned it to the water; we felt that was where it should be,” he said.

For information, see www.tampabaygreenconsortiuum or email to [email protected]

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