TAMPA — Armed with video that shows colorful beads piled along the bottom of Tampa Bay, Mayor Jane Castor urged Gasparilla revelers to obey litter laws and quit tossing the necklaces into the water — especially from boats.
"Environmental sustainability is a core tenet of my administration’s focus,” Castor said at a news conference Thursday, about five weeks before the Jan. 18 Gasparilla Parade of Pirates.
“And while we all love a good parade, the beads thrown during the parade have no place harming our delicate ecosystem.”
An Eckerd College marine science professor told the Tampa Bay Times in 2016 that the beads contain unsafe chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead.
There was no talk of banning beads from the annual Gasparilla parade, which draws an estimated 300,000 people — officials just want to keep the millions of beads from turning into litter.
One way beads end up in the bay is when they’re tossed by those riding with he flotilla of private boats that tags along behind the signature José Gasparilla pirate ship on the morning of the parade.
The organization that puts on the parade — Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla — has worked with the Coast Guard to issue a litter law notice to all mariners.
The city is also rolling out a publication education campaign with the brand “Bead Free Bay.” Those signs are being posted at all city docks.
The city also will establish designated “no-throw zones” near the water during parades to prevent beads from accidentally being tossed into the bay.
Also partnering in the campaign are the Florida Aquarium, ad agency ChappellRoberts, Krewe of Sant’ Yago, Rough Riders, Green Gasparilla, Sierra Club, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and others.
“By keeping plastic beads from entering the bay, rivers and streams, we’re saving wildlife and preserving our natural world for all Tampanians and visitors to enjoy,” said Roger Germann, president and chief executive of the Florida Aquarium.