Greta the Great White Shark, Natasha the Turtle and their oceanic friends — huge and beautiful artworks made of marine debris — are the stars of Mote Aquarium’s newest exhibit, “Sea Debris: Awareness through Art,” featuring “Washed Ashore.”

From Dec. 9, 2017, through June 15, 2018, visitors can see these larger-than-life, marine-inspired sculptures made entirely of plastic and other debris gathered from the Oregon coastline. These handmade pieces, ranging from 15 feet long and 10 feet wide to 7 feet long and 8 feet high, will fascinate and educate children, the young at heart and all those who seek creative solutions to environmental challenges.

Americans generate 4.4 pounds of trash per person daily, on average. Unfortunately, much of it ends up in the ocean. Plastic products in sea water can break down into tiny microplastics that may be swallowed by marine animals. Derelict fishing gear, such as monofilament line, can entangle or be ingested by animals such as sea turtles, dolphins and other marine life — causing injury or even death. Marine debris can also damage important habitats.

Mote staff members hope to turn marine debris stories from tragic to teachable with “Sea Debris” featuring “Washed Ashore.” Mote will host a series of marine-debris themed, educational events during winter 2017 through spring 2018 in southwest Florida (below).

The exhibit is paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues.

About “Washed Ashore”: This non-profit community art project was founded by artist and educator Angela Haseltine Pozzi in 2010 and based in Bandon, Oregon. The project has processed tons of plastic pollution from Pacific beaches to create monumental art that is awakening the hearts and minds of viewers to the global marine debris crisis. Learn more about "Washed Ashore" at www.washedashore.org.

‘Sea Debris’ related events

Check www.mote.org/events or see other links specified below for event details and registration. Registration is required for all events unless otherwise stated.

2017

  • Dec. 9: New exhibit “Sea Debris: Awareness through Art” featuring “Washed Ashore” opens to the public. See it from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily at Mote Aquarium, Sarasota. Included with normal Aquarium admission.

2018

  • Jan. 25: Youth Making Ripples Film Festival and Competition. Middle- to high-school film competition finalists debut their works focusing on marine debris and plastic pollution.
  • Feb. 10: Teens clean up the island. 8:30-11 a.m., City Island, Sarasota. All teens (age 14-18 ONLY) are invited to work with Mote's high school interns to rid City Island of marine debris. Bring a water bottle and get ready to meet new friends! Students can earn community service hours.
  • Feb. 26: Mote’s Special Lecture Series kicks off with "The good, the bad, and the smelly: An overview of Mote's Stranding Investigations Program,” by Gretchen Lovewell, whose team rescues and recovers ocean animals, including those affected by marine debris. 6:30 p.m. in the WAVE Center at Mote, Sarasota. All lecture details and tickets: www.mote.org/lecture
  • March 20: "A Plastic Ocean" documentary screening. 5:30 p.m. in the WAVE Center at Mote Aquarium, Sarasota.
  • April 16: Science Café on Sea Debris. Discussion with experts from Mote and Keep Sarasota County Beautiful. Calusa Brewing, 5701 Derek Ave., Sarasota.
  • April 23: SeaTrek.TV Special Live Event spotlighting marine debris. Check for details at: www.SeaTrek.tv/live
  • June 2: World Oceans Day Celebration. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Mote Aquarium, Sarasota. Games, crafts and educational tables focused on green practices, marine science and conservation by Mote and other local organizations. Included with normal Mote Aquarium admission. www.mote.org/worldoceansday
  • June 15: Last day of “Sea Debris” exhibit.

In addition to Mote's events, you can find three major cleanup events led by Keep Sarasota County Beautiful: the Great American Cleanup in spring, the Liberty Litter Cleanup in summer and the International Coastal Cleanup in fall. Search for “Keep Sarasota County Beautiful” at www.scgov.net, and on their page, scroll down to sign up for notices of events.

Tips for reducing marine debris

Everyone:

  • Choose re-usable water bottles and bags.
  • Skip the straw or carry a reusable straw.
  • Place trash in appropriate receptacles. Recycle whenever possible within the rules and guidelines in your community. Sharpen your recycling smarts with fun materials for teachers and students: visit epa.gov/recycle.
  • Reduce microplastics by taking steps suggested by the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project (FMAP). Find steps and pledge to complete them here.
    FMAP is a citizen-science project that was funded in 2015 by an outreach and education grant from NOAA's Marine Debris Program.
  • Store or secure loose items around your yard, especially when stormy weather is forecast. This helps prevent objects from blowing or washing into storm drains and waterways. 
  • Never release balloons into the environment.
  • Find coastal cleanup events in your community through the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup website: oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas
  • Learn about marine debris prevention from qualified government programs such as NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, FWC’s Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, DEP’s Clean Marina and Clean Boatyard programs, along with independent, informal science education efforts such as Mote’s “Sea Debris” exhibit.
  • Check out the Florida Marine Debris Reducation Guidance plan, developed by an expert team including Mote, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and many others: floridadep.gov/fco/fcmp  

Beachgoers, boaters and fishers: 

  • Each time you go to the beach, leave it cleaner than before.
  • Share data on the debris you find through the smartphone app Marine Debris Tracker. There, you can log data under a special list for CZS’ Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.
  • Stow trash and fishing line when under way. Marine debris that blows out of a vessel or vehicle can become ingested by, or entangled around, marine life.
  • Check your fishing line for frays and recycle monofilament line before it can break.
  • Recycle monofilament fishing line in bins at boat ramps, piers, marinas and tackle shops. Carry a portable bin to collect discarded line. Cut discarded braid or wire fishing line into 12-inch or smaller pieces and place them into a covered trash receptacle.
  • When disposing of tackle such as hooks and lures, clip off sharp points to avoid injuring humans and wildlife.
  • Report entangled marine animals (and any injured, sick or dead marine animals in general) to trained wildlife responders in your area.
  • Within Sarasota or Manatee county waters, please call Mote's Stranding Investigations Program, a 24-hour response program, at (941) 988-0212.
  • If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922).