The Florida Aquarium encourages you to celebrate Gasparilla in an eco-friendly way this year! Starting January 19, (the day following the Gasparilla Children’s Parade) through February 2, bring 10 pounds of beads to the Aquarium to receive a $10 discount off admission. 20 pounds of beads garners a $20 discount. Those who bring in 30 pounds or more will get free admission. This is the second year the Aquarium has collected beads from its guests, a new tradition that ties nicely in with the community’s efforts to have a greener Gasparilla.
From the Aquarium, the beads will be donated to the MacDonald Training Center, an innovator in educational, vocational, residential and employment services to people with disabilities. The Center sorts the beads and resells them for next year’s Gasparilla. Gasparilla beads cannot be traditionally recycled, so the community’s best option for reducing waste at this event is the reduction and reuse of the beads.
The Aquarium has also partnered with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s Bead Free Bay initiative, which discourages Gasparilla goers on boats and land from throwing beads into Tampa Bay. Beads on land are by far much easier to collect then when they enter our waterways as they can have adverse effects on wildlife. Trash that ends up in the water can have a wide range of negative impacts—from the injury or death of marine wildlife that accidentally ingest garbage or become entangled in litter, to humans being exposed to pathogens and toxins when trash floats by where they boat, swim or fish.
Plastics can also break down into what is called “microplastics” which are near impossible to retrieve out of the water. The Aquarium does an underwater clean up with our divers every year post-Gasparilla, and hundreds of pounds of beads are recovered. Our best hope is to keep the beads out of the water to avoid detrimental effects to our Tampa Bay waters.
The Florida Aquarium will be holding a 21+ Gasparilla Pirate Cruise in honor of this year’s festivities, where we travel across the waters of Hillsborough Bay to meet the Pirate Ship Jose Gaspar and the Pirate Invasion Flotilla at Ballast Point and invade the City of Tampa. The Aquarium will be supporting Mayor Castor’s Bead Free Bay initiative with banners that read “No Throw Zone,” discouraging people from throwing beads into the water.
The Aquarium recognizes the rich history that Gasparilla brings to Tampa Bay, and it is not our intention to take any of that away. We encourage our citizens to be eco-friendlier at this year’s event. Keep beads out of the water, recycle your beads at the Aquarium, and have an amazing and safe time at this year’s festivities!
About The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes stewardship of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, The Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see over 8,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals, explore complex ecosystems, look for wild dolphins in Tampa Bay, play at the Splash Pad and more! Ranked #2 Aquarium in North America in a recent USA TODAY’S 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, the aquarium is more than a must-see attraction, The Florida Aquarium is working to protect and restore our blue planet on many conservation fronts, including research and rescue efforts that help restore Florida’s sea turtle and coral populations and to ensure that sharks continue to swim our seas. In August of 2019, The Florida Aquarium, in partnership with Project Coral, became the first to successfully spawn critically endangered pillar coral in a laboratory. To learn more, follow us on social media at @floridaaquarium and visit www.flaquarium.org.
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