NOAA Offers $200,00 to Help Clean Biscayne Bay

MIAMI, Florida, April 15, 2008 (ENS) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, is investing $200,000 in Florida’s Miami-Dade County to expand the scope of Baynanza, an annual celebration and cleanup of Biscayne Bay that started 26 years ago.

The funding is the largest NOAA contribution ever made towards a community marine debris cleanup project. It will support the removal of marine debris, such as abandoned vessels, docks and pilings, and other large items that cannot be bagged by volunteers.

“In our role as coastal steward, NOAA wants to remove as much marine debris as we can. This grant helps Miami-Dade restore fish habitat, make boating safer, and enhance the overall experience for people enjoying the Bay,” said Conrad Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Thousands of abandoned and derelict vessels and structures litter Florida’s coastal waterways. In some cases, debris has been spreading along shorelines and across underwater habitats for many years.

In coastal South Florida, derelict blue crab traps pose a major problem. These traps can damage seagrass beds and mangrove roots, and have the potential to trap and kill fish and crabs out of season in a phenomenon known as “ghost-fishing.”

Volunteers help clean Biscayne Bay at the 25th
annual Baynanza in 2007. (Photo
courtesy Baynanza)

The county is working to clean up waters and wetlands within NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, two of the region’s most environmentally sensitive and highly protected marine areas.

“These derelict vessels, trash, and discarded crab traps are prevalent within the borders of what should be a highly protected area,” said engineer Carlos Espinosa, director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, DERM.

“Working with the NOAA Restoration Center and the marine sanctuary is a tremendous opportunity for DERM to help reverse decades of neglect and to restore the project area to a more pristine condition,” said Espinosa.

On April 19, NOAA will take part in Biscayne Bay Cleanup Day during Miami-Dade’s Baynanza event. This year, communities will focus on shoreline cleanups, tree plantings and educational activities.

The annual Baynanza celebration was established 26 years ago to bring attention to Biscayne Bay and its importance as one of the county’s most important ecological and economic systems.

In 2007, Biscayne Bay Cleanup Day drew almost 6,300 community participants and this year even more volunteers are expected to come out and help clean up trash along the shores.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program offers funding and technical assistance to encourage local communities to create and run projects that prevent and remove marine debris to benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and NOAA trust resources, including local fish. In addition to the ecological improvements the projects provide educational and social benefits for people in the communities.

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