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University of Tampa divers help pull up nearly 100 pounds of Gasparilla beads from Seddon Channel

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Funding for the project came from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Bay Mini-grant program, which is funded from the sale of the organization's "Tarpon Tag". Get yours today »

TAMPA — In the murky depths off Davis Islands, Matt Gamache scanned the bottom of the Seddon Channel for sunken trash that had once been treasure.

And there it was, like a string of colorful pearls nestled among the silt-covered rocks and oyster shells: a strand of Gasparilla beads. The University of Tampa freshman gently pulled with a gloved hand, the single necklace having become entangled with several other strands. He placed the plastic baubles in a mesh bag and continued his hunt.

"You could stay in one place for 10 minutes and just keep finding beads," Gamache, 19, recalled.

By the end of the day Sunday, Gamache had helped two-dozen other volunteer divers fish nearly 100 pounds of beads from a thousand-foot stretch of the channel south of Marjorie Park Marina. He was one of five University of Tampa dive club members who took part in the inaugural effort, dubbed the Gasp – Our Beads of Tampa Bay survey and cleanup project.

The two goals of the event, held the day after Earth Day: Remove at least some of the plastic booty that finds its way into the water during Tampa's signature celebration, and get a sense of where to target future cleanups.