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Tampa Bay Waterkeeper leads both short term and long term campaigns to address the major issues threatening our bay and beyond.

Offshore Drilling

Image of actual surface oiling from Deepwater Horizon that is eerily similar to the shape of the State of Florida.

When the offshore oiling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in the waters off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010, it sparked one of the biggest environmental disasters in American history. Eleven workers died, and the aftermath of the explosion highlighted the human, economic, and environmental risks of continued investment in fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure.

Over the course of nearly three months, the spill released approximately 4 billion barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill left a monumental impact on the ecology of the gulf, rocked tourism industries, and destroyed the livelihood of countless commercial and recreational fishers.

We still don’t know the full breadth of the spill’s impact, which will be studied for decades, but scientists do know that it’s caused fish with lesions and immune problems, deformed crustaceans, dolphin deaths from bacterial infections due to compromised immune systems, massive die-off of microscopic organisms called foraminifera, and weathered particles of oil found buried in the sediment in the gulf floor.

Even though the spill happened just off the coast of Louisiana, gulf currents and weather patterns pushed the oil across the gulf. It settled on a shelf 80 miles from Tampa Bay, and evidence shows that it impacted fish in the area.

Nearly two decades prior, another major oil spill impacted the Tampa Bay watershed. On Aug. 10, 1993, three vessels collided near the mouth of Tampa Bay and spilled over 32,000 gallons of jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline and about 330,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil.

This fouled 13 miles of beaches and injured sea turtles, birds, mangrove habitat, seagrasses, salt marshes, and shellfish beds. It also led to the closing many of the waterways to fishing and boating. While this was the last major spill to affect Tampa Bay directly, each year an average of 4 billion gallons of oil and other hazardous substances pass through Tampa Bay, so the risk always remains for another spill event.

As the United States continues to allow oil drilling, extraction, and transportation throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and even seeks to expand the area of the Gulf of Mexico that can be leased and drilled by oil companies east towards Tampa Bay, we could see future oil spill events and disasters unless we move more meaningfully towards a clean energy future.

Your Tampa Bay Waterkeeper will continue the fight against offshore drilling as long as it takes to protect our communities, economies, and environment.


Tampa Bay Waterkeeper gathers with environmental partners in Tallahassee to urge lawmakers to reject new offshore drilling in Florida.

Plastic Pollution

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, in partnership with other local organizations including Suncoast Surfrider and the Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition, is committed to reducing plastic pollution in the Tampa Bay watershed. According to a 2017 study from the University of Georgia, approximately 18 billion pounds of plastic enter our waterways each year. That’s enough plastic to cover every foot of shoreline in the world with five garbage bags of plastic. Plastic pollution is a global problem but the solutions start locally at the grassroots level.

We’re working to put an end to single-use plastics in order to protect our coasts, wildlife, health, and natural heritage. We’ve been working with local governments as well as with local restaurants and businesses, to implement sensible solutions to plastic pollution.

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper’s approach to plastic pollution and marine debris is guided by NOAA’s Honolulu Strategy which consists of three main goals:

  • Reduced amount and impact of land-based sources of marine debris introduced into the sea
  • Reduced amount and impact of sea-based sources of marine debris, including solid waste; lost cargo; abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG); and abandoned vessels, introduced into the sea
  • Reduced amount and impact of accumulated marine debris on shorelines, in benthic habitats, and in pelagic waters

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper will continue to work with local partners to advocate for sensible regulations at the local government level to prevent plastic pollution and marine debris from entering our waterways in the first place.

We’ll also continue to hold clean-ups by land and by sea to recover the plastic pollution and marine debris that has already entered our environment. If you’re interested in supporting our effort to keep plastic out of our waterways, consider becoming a member today.

Legislative Engagement

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper serves as a legislative watchdog, tracking bills through Congress in both Tallahassee and Washington. During legislative session, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper will produce a regularly released Tally Report that will report and track bills that may affect our precious natural resources here in the Tampa Bay watershed. We will ensure that Tampa Bay has a voice in both Tallahassee and in Washington.