Volunteers gather to clean up Tampa's Riverwalk

- The Florida Aquarium celebrated World Ocean’s Day by making Tampa Bay a little more beautiful.

Saturday morning more than 100 volunteers picked up garbage along and in the shores of downtown Tampa.

More than 1,000 pounds of trash and debris was collected by the Aquarium's clean up crew as part of an effort to protect the environment and our natural wildlife.

Aquarium officials say plastics are one of the biggest threats to our native dolphins, sea turtles, birds and fish.

On Saturday volunteers found plenty as they combed the river walk and pulled up trash from the water.

“About 30-percent of sea turtles are being found with plastic in their systems and they say that by 2050 100-percent of birds will have it as well. Those numbers are really concerning and really upsetting but we know that there’s something we can do about it,” said Florida Aquarium Manager of Volunteer Services Chelsea Gomez.

Gomez says plastic straws are one of the biggest offenders volunteers pulled out of green spaces and waterways.

“One recurring trash item we found a lot of was plastic straws. These can become lodged in the stomachs of animals like dolphins and sea turtles, causing a slow and painful death,” explained Gomez. “Everyone can help protect our environment, just by refusing to use single-use plastics, like straws. We recommend using stainless steel, glass or paper straws which are much better for the environment.”

Gomez helps organize numerous clean up days in the Bay Area throughout the year and is always looking for more volunteers to help.

To learn more about volunteering and to see upcoming projects, visit http://www.flaquarium.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer.

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