On May 19, Suncoast Aqua Ventures conducted the first-ever underwater cleanup of the Manatee River’s downtown bridges. Partners for the event included Keep Manatee Beautiful, Force Blue Special Ops Veterans, Reef Innovations, Dive, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s dive team and the Ocean Conservancy. A total of 40 divers, 35 kayakers, three personal watercraft and numerous other landside volunteers were on hand to assist in the cleanup.
As one would expect, there was lots of fishing debris found around the Green Bridge fishing pier. The take included fishing nets, tackle and fishing poles.
The railroad and DeSoto Bridge yielded a variety of debris, including the remnants of a boat that sank at the Bradenton Boat Docks. Other items included a stove, sink, refrigerator and AC unit. In addition, what appeared to be the contents of a kitchen were removed from the bottom, including a coffee pot, cookware, dishes and a fire extinguisher as well as four ladders, bicycles, traffic cones, a trolling motor and numerous car and boat batteries.
Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown was on hand helping with the effort and provided six City of Bradenton public works helpers to assist with trash removal from the dock staging area.
Also on hand providing support was the city of Bradenton and Palmetto police and Palmetto Mayor Shirley Bryant.
Event sponsors included Waste Pro, Marriott International, Chris Craft Boat Builders and Mila’s on the Manatee.
Suncoast Aqua Ventures was founded in 2017 by scuba divers and friends Troy Brown and Cheryl Huntsinger. The duo was motivated to take action after witnessing the plethora of human trash littering the underwater environment they love.
From its humble beginnings, the passion spread to other divers which resulted in their annual competitive “Reef and Beach Cleanup,” formerly held every year at the Bradenton Yacht Club. In 2023 it will be held at a new location, SeaBreeze Park, 55 Horseshoe Loop Road in Terra Ceia.
Over the past six years, dedicated volunteers have removed over 50 tons of trash from coastal waters.
The group has formed successful alliances with other organizations that share their vision of the responsible stewardship of our coastal ecosystem. School service organizations, corporations and municipalities throughout the area have come together to support their cause. Now the organization has expanded to doing monthly targeted cleanups and post-hurricane events. Over time, they have motivated hundreds of volunteers to make a difference in restoring the beauty of our fragile ecosystem.
You can join their efforts and learn about upcoming events online.