NAPLES, Fla. - (WBBH) Volunteers and local law enforcement took in a major haul off the coast of Collier County this week.
They spent the day cleaning up trash from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Not only does the garbage damage the habitat but it also damages Southwest Florida's economy.
A few miles off the coast of the Naples, and just twenty feet below the surface, you'll come across everything from murky water to marine life. Both are being harmed by what's latching on to our reef system.
"It can be a hassle to a hazard to be quite honest," said Bryan Fluech of Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County.
According to Fluech, our reefs are in desperate need of help.
For the past six years, the Florida Sea Grant Extension with assistance from Collier County, officials take to the water once a year -- diving down under and finding everything from casting line to trash.
"We've removed literally dozens of cast nets, crab traps, fishing poles, fishing lines and beer bottles," Fluech said.
"Old air conditioning parts and rusted cylinders, too. We're hitting other spots that have had nets on them for a generation," said Bill D'Antuono of Naples.
All of this puts wildlife, the public and our local economy at risk.
"Our economy is depending on these waters. Whether you're a hotel, fisherman or tourist, we all come down here for this and we want to make sure we keep it clean," Fluech said.
Thursday, we got a first hand look at the debris -- including an area in the Gulf covered with close to 50 tires.
"It can hurt any type of marine life, big or small. We've seen stone crabs wrapped in fishing line before, it can have a wide impact," Fluech said.
"It's just not natural, shouldn't be there," D'Antuono said.
Divers pulled the tires up one by one.
Courtesy: WBBH, NBC News Channel