In an effort to clean out marine debris from the Florida Keys waters, a new federal program will train dive crews to collect lobster traps, fishing line and construction debris left in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
“Irma carried things a long way,” said Gena Parsons, a spokeswoman in Key West for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “There is all kinds of stuff. What divers have been seeing so far is a lot of fishing gear.”
The program, “Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys,” came out of meetings held after Irma struck Sept. 10, and allows for the 25 Blue Star environmentally friendly certified dive operators to learn how to responsibly remove marine debris from the sanctuary without causing further damage.
For example, if some planted debris already has baby coral growing on it, the best decision may be to leave it, Parsons said.
“You want to do as little harm as possible,” she said.
Financial reimbursement for the marine debris removal may be available to crews that are trained, permitted and have completed the work.
For information on the project contact Marlies Tumolo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-434-9385.
The first scheduled trainings are in Key Largo and Key West at 6:30 p.m. April 19.
The Key West training is at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 35 E. Quay Road, and the Key Largo training is at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Office, 95230 Overseas Highway.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen