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ST. MARKS CLEANUP DAY KICKS OFF NATIONAL COASTWEEK

September 15, 2003
Contact:  Juli Dodson, FWC, (850) 922-4340
David Moody, SMNWR, (850) 925-6121

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (SMNWR) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) kick off National Coastweek observance in north Florida with the 18th Annual Coastal Cleanup and Awareness Day.  The educational and workday event will be Saturday, Sept. 20 from 9 a.m. until noon at the SMNWR Visitor Center.

Volunteers can help the environment by cleaning up debris along the coast.  They will be treated to educational exhibits and free items offered by event sponsors and exhibitors, which include the Fla. Dept. of Environmental Protection, FWC, Publix Supermarkets, Ocean Conservancy, SMNWR, St. Marks Refuge Association, Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation and Wal-Mart.

National Coastweek is a series of events held around the country to celebrate coastal communities and coastal resources. The title of this year’s national campaign is “National Coastweek 2003:  Living on the Edge.”  It encourages coastal enthusiasts to explore life on the edge – where land meets water and fragile ecosystems hang in the balance. It runs Sept. 20-27, beginning with the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. More information about the Coastal Cleanup is available at www.floridacoastalcleanup.org or by telephoning (800) 262-FLOR.

Here are some facts showing the degree to which people depend on coastal areas to live, work and relax:

bulletMore than 50 percent of Americans live in the coastal regions.
bulletU.S. coastal economies generate more than $1.5 trillion annually.
bullet180 million people visit the U.S. coastline annually.
bulletMore than 89 million Americans visit U.S. coastline annually.
bullet40 percent of new commercial development and 46 percent of new residential development nationwide is occurring in coastal communities.
bulletU.S. coastal and marine waters support 28.3 million jobs.
bulletFlorida has 8,000 miles of tidal shoreline.

“This event is the perfect forum for the FWC to share information about sea turtles, manatees, shorebirds, saltwater fishing issues and marine research projects,” said Juli Dodson, with FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries. “It is going to be a fun activity day for the whole family, with wonderful conservation benefits for St. Marks.”

Individuals who want to participate in the cleanup project can register at the St. Marks Visitors Center, 1255 Lighthouse Rd., St. Marks, 9-11 a.m. on the day of the cleanup. Groups of five or more participants must pre-register by calling SMNWR at (850) 925-6121 before Friday, Sept.19.

The first 500 participants who return their collected debris and data cards will receive a T-shirt and lunch. Volunteers need to know:  Do not disturb crab traps. Only people authorized by FWC and the SMNWR may collect traps.

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