We had a very successful dive cleanup at Fort De Soto's Bay Pier on Saturday, October 15, 2011. Fort Desoto is the largest park in Florida's Pinellas County Park system and comprises 5 islands totaling 1,136 acres of land: Mullet Key, Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, and Bonne Fortune Key. The main island is Mullet Key. The park is named after the fort built on the islands in the late 1900's to guard the entrance to Tampa Bay. The island is undeveloped (meaning no houses or commercial buildings). Pinellas County tries to remove invasive plant species and preserve the native vegetation so that the park appears much as it would have in the days of Hernando Desoto and Ponce de Leon. The "Dive Against Debris" event also supported the county's efforts to keep the pier and surrounding water clean of debris. The Bay Fishing Pier, on Mullet Key, is a 500 foot fishing pier that also has a ferry service to Egmont Key. There is a sandy beach on both sides of the pier, but there is not a lot of swimming because of strong water currents. We had a big group show up to this event, to include divers and surface support volunteers from the University of South Florida Dive Team, University of South Florida Polytechnic Dive Team, Jim Igler and his Florida Aquarium volunteer divers, Tampa Bay Watch, Keep Pinellas County Beautiful, and others. The weather was perfect for a dive. The water was flat, but had a strong current running through the pier. During our dive, the state park rangers coordinated with both the fishermen and the ferry service to ensure the safety of the divers during this event. The current was pretty strong and the visibility was almost zero. But we managed to find a lot of stuff. After the dive, all the volunteers gathered the debris, identified each item for the data collection sheets, and then turned over the debris to Keep Pinellas County Beautiful for proper disposal or recycling. When it was all said and done, we collected 236 pounds of debris. The collection included several casting nets and allot of fishing weights, hooks, lines, poles and traps. We found some bigger items as well, to include rebar pipes and poles, a chair, and a large transformer insulator. It was a great cleanup and my thanks to all who participated!
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