TAMPA, Fla. — If you're planning on throwing beads into Tampa Bay during upcoming celebrations in Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor has a message for you: don't.
The mayor announced Thursday she and community organizers are relaunching "Bead Free Bay" as a way to help marine animals by keeping plastics out of the water.
With the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade and Gasparilla fast approaching, where beads are a staple, it's important to get the message out now.
To be clear, this doesn't mean beads can't be thrown during the celebrations. They just can't wind up in the bay.
"Tampa is an incredible city, Tampa Bay is the best place in the world to live, and one of the big reasons for that is because of our location on the beautiful waterfront," Mayor Jane Castor said. "There are no beads allowed to be thrown out on the water, we need to keep all of our beads and all of that festive part of Gasparilla activities on land."
Divers with the Florida Aquarium recovered 120 pounds of beads from the water in 2019 near Bayshore Boulevard, right along the Gasparilla parade route, according to the city of Tampa.
The city says "beads and other non-biodegradable items are incredibly harmful to the environment and pose serious threats to marine wildlife." That's because beads take hundreds of years to break down into microplastics, which remain in the environment forever, the city says.
"They persist in the natural food web, causing harm not only to the environment but to all living things, people included," the city stated, in part. "The health of waterways directly correlates to the health of society."
Not only is throwing beads bad for the environment, but it's also illegal in Florida. Throwing beads, or anything else, into the water is prohibited under Florida Statute 403.413.