Marine debris in our oceans has become a global environmental crisis. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “Plastics are polluting our planet and choking our ocean, harming human health, and damaging ecosystems vital to our livelihoods.”
Mercury Pro Team members Capt. Neill Holland and Danielle Dawley are doing something about it. In 2017, they co-founded Ocean Aid 360 in St. Petersburg, Florida, dedicated to removing marine debris from coastal waters and restoring marine habitat through innovative partnerships with coastal communities, private industry and the government at local, state and federal levels.
The Ocean Aid 360 initiative has already proven highly successful, and with their most recent cleanup, in September 2023, Ocean Aid 360 and their thousands of volunteers reached the milestone of 275,000 pounds of plastic and fishing equipment collected across 30 cleanup events to date.
Holland grew up boating in St. Petersburg and after pursuing a successful career in journalism, he “did a 360”, returning home in 2015 with Dawley to realize his childhood dream of becoming a charter fishing captain. Holland guides anglers fishing for tarpon, redfish, snook and trout in Tampa Bay from his beautifully restored 1969 Aquasport® 222, powered by a 150hp Mercury Pro XS® outboard.
It was Dawley’s dedication to preserving the marine environment that originally inspired the couple to create Ocean Aid 360. “Danielle would spend the second half of her lunch break every day walking the shoreline and picking up other people’s trash,” Holland said.
Once they co-founded the organization, Holland began using his writing skills to apply for grants to help fund its environmental initiatives. In 2018, Ocean Aid 360 received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its innovative community-based Ghost Trap Rodeo project.