Program rewards Clearwater businesses for being ocean-friendly

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Clearwater Beach is consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the country. 

But the sugar sand and blue waters have an ugly side; piles of trash polluting the ocean and beaches.

“Unfortunately, we do see that there is a lot of trash left on our beaches every day, and that can be detrimental to our sea turtles,” said Lindsey Flynn, Supervisor of the Turtle Conservation Program at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

She says the litter can confuse adult turtles so they don’t lay eggs, and hatchlings can easily get trapped in plastic bags or single-use cups.

A new grassroots effort in Clearwater Beach wants businesses to take aim at that impact, and focus on conservation. 

The Ocean Allies program was launched Wednesday at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The project focuses on maintaining the areas tourism base and also taking steps to protect the marine environment.

“Which means you do things a little differently, you use less plastic, you promote eco-friendly things to your tourists,” explained Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO, David Yates.

Companies signing on as Ocean Allies will also work to get certified as Ocean Friendly Businesses. A badge the owners of Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber and Bobby’s Bistro & Wine Bar already wear proudly, cutting out many single-use products from the eateries.

Clearwater City Council even passed a resolution back in May encouraging the certification.

“We also have people coming in here solely because of us being involved in this movement, they come in and ask for a manger just to thank us,” said Bobby Heilman.

The goal of Wednesday’s Ocean Allies launch was to introduce the idea to local business owners and managers and there seems to be a lot of interest.

“You’ll have less trash on the beaches, less litter in the oceans nearby,” Yates said. “So the whole idea is we want to steps for ourselves to do the right thing as businesses, but also encourage tourists when they show up to do better themselves to care for the environment.”

If this program is successful in Clearwater Beach, Yates says they hope to be the model worldwide for transforming into an eco-friendly beach brand.