MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Biscayne Bay is at a dangerous tipping point, teetering between a healthy seagrass ecosystem, which we all now enjoy, to one dominated by algae that will no longer support life as we know it.
Now in its 40th year, Baynanza, a celebration of all that is Biscayne Bay, took on a new sense of urgency, as more and more community members stepped up to save the watershed that is the lynchpin of not just our economy, but our health and lifestyle.
Saving Biscayne Bay is an all hands on deck effort.
“It’s going to take a commitment from our entire community to protect the resources of the bay,” Lee Hefty, director of DERM, said. “Even though you may not see it from your home, everything you do at home could affect the health of Biscayne Bay.”
It’s a reminder that no matter how far west you think you live from the bay or the beach, everything you do on land affects the health of our water.
“DERM is out here engaging, so from a county perspective, everybody’s getting involved and everybody has a role to play. So we all need to come together and figure out how to solve this problem together,” said Dave Doebler, cofounder of Volunteer Clean Up.
The unprecedented fish kill of the summer of 2020, when more than 27,000 marine species were found dead floating on the surface of Biscayne Bay, was an ominous warning sign of what we stand to lose if we don’t all stand up to protect and restore the watershed.
“We cannot live in paradise with a dead bay,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “We have to do everything in our power, and people have really learned and stepped up, and Baynanza is a good way for us to educate the public and get everybody together.”
And the public is showing up in a big way. Thousands of volunteers are taking part in 26 different Baynanza cleanups happening along the shores of Biscayne Bay Saturday.
Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill and his wife Rita joined hundreds cleaning up Morningside Park.
“It’s a wake-up call,” Magill said. “When we see how much trash we pick from these areas, it amazes me that it’s still happening.”
On the Julia Tuttle Causeway, volunteers were shocked to see the sheer amount of garbage trashing the shoreline and mangroves.
“There’s so much out there. We’re not making even a dent. It’s really sad, but we’re here and we’re doing it,” Barbara Alvarez, of Church by the Sea, said.
While on the south shore, volunteers from Clean Miami Beach and Ocean Recovery Group picked up almost 1,200 pounds of trash.
“Unbelievable, man. We need to be more conscientious. We all need to start to care that much more and try to make a difference,” said Zachary Kirstein, president of Ocean Recovery Group.
Meanwhile on the MacArthur Causeway, volunteers with Clean this Beach Up collected another 900 pounds of trash.
And then there was another massive haul from North Bay Village.
The mayor there says it’s not enough to clean up. We have to stop the pollution at the source.
“It says that we have a problem, and the problem is there’s too much trash in the bay,” North Bay Village Mayor Brent Latham said.
Some young kids we spoke to as they were collecting trash from Pelican Harbor said they don’t understand why people choose to litter when there are garbage cans all around.
“There’s a trash can right there. Don’t just throw it down,” one child said.
Miami-Dade County is launching Plastic Free 305 this weekend -- an ongoing campaign encouraging all businesses, small and large, to stop using single-use plastic -- something we all need to stop doing.
Say no to plastic water bottles, no to plastic bags, no to plastic cups, food containers and utensils. The proof of the damage of our addiction to plastic is in the thousands of pounds of trash that was picked up this weekend.
For information on how to volunteer for a clean-up, click here.