TAMPA BAY, Fla., Dec. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly 300 volunteers recently gathered at the Rock Ponds, Tampa Bay's largest wetland restoration site, to take part in the largest volunteer marsh planting in the history of Tampa Bay. Volunteers planted 40,000 plugs of salt marsh cordgrass to help to restore fish and coastal wildlife habitats and improve water quality in the area. This record-setting event was supported by CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Tampa Bay Watch, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission and Hillsborough County.

CITGO employees were among the community volunteers who planted grass plugs into intertidal marsh areas of the Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project, the biggest coastal restoration project in Tampa Bay. CITGO supplied lunch and commemorative t-shirts for all volunteers as part of its Caring for Our Coast initiative. Caring for Our Coast was started in the summer of 2014 to boost environmental protection and revitalization, especially in the Gulf Coast areas still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Since 2014, CITGO has committed resources for projects targeted to involve more than 2,500 volunteers engaged in more than 40 volunteer events to restore nearly 400 acres in the Gulf Coast by planting over 140,000 plugs of dune grass, trees and bushes.

"The Gulf Coast is home to two CITGO refineries and many of our employees," said CITGO President and Chief Executive Officer Nelson P. Martinez. "We at CITGO are glad to have this opportunity to come together with Tampa Bay Watch and other local groups to help protect and restore fragile Gulf Coast habitats."

Salt marsh planting projects help to restore and stabilize coastal areas, as well as the estuarine and coastal fishery food chains on which many species of fish and marine mammals depend.

"Salt marsh habitats are struggling as a result of 100 years of urbanization activities, but restoration projects like this do a great service to the wildlife that call the marsh home," said Peter Clark, president of Tampa Bay Watch. "With support from CITGO and other volunteers making this a record-setting event, we can start to turn the tide and use the strength of our numbers to protect Tampa Bay's vital ecosystems."

About Tampa Bay Watch
Tampa Bay Watch is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) stewardship program dedicated exclusively to the charitable and scientific purpose of protecting and restoring the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary encompassing over 400 square miles of open water and 2,300 square miles of highly- developed watershed. Tampa Bay Watch involves more than 10,000 youth and adult volunteers each year in hands on habitat restoration projects. For more information, visit www.tampabaywatch.org, or call 727-867-8166.

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by CITGO Holding, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For more information, visit www.CITGO.com.

SOURCE CITGO Petroleum Corporation