As divers we are fortunate to submerse ourselves in a world many people have never seen in person. It’s beauty is astounding and humbling. In most instances here in Palm Beach, it is present in all its natural beauty. But even here, at the limits of man, there are still plenty of signs that show of our presence. Human discards litter this splendid ecosystem. The unfortunate side is that because this trash is out of sight for many people, little is done to protect and restore its natural beauty.
Luckily, many of us who dive make it a common ritual to pick up as much man-made trash as we can during our regular dives. But it is a couple of times throughout the year that the efforts to clean up of the ocean environment reaches epic proportions. Divers from throughout the world join together to make a difference and bring to light the importance of taking care of our ocean. One such event happened this weekend in Palm Beach, FL. — the 4th Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup.
A group of caring divers aboard our dive boat, M/V Sirena, took time out of their regular dive schedule to help us clean up of the reefs. Our first stop was at Paul’s reef. This dive site at the southern end of our dive tract is rarely visited by divers so trash tends to accumulate a little more often than the more popular reefs.
Conditions were far from ideal by Palm Beach diving standards due, in part, to a cold water upwelling that had stirred the visibility, but this would not deter this determined group. With the assistance and generosity of the Southeast Florida Action Network (SEAFAN), who donated cutting shears to all the divers and had collection bags and numerous other items available to the divers for this important event, the divers collected numerous bits of trash from this reef.
Our focus was around the hundreds of yards of fishing line that dangerously entangles the reef. Monofilament line, or worse, braided fishing line is the cause of death to many marine sea creatures. Entanglement in these lines for air breathing animals such as sea turtles and dolphins can have a deadly result. Add to this the dangers to fish life and corals and sponges. Fishing line can easily cut through one of the barrel sponges on the reefs that is decades old! The picture above shows how much just ONE PERSON collected on ONE DIVE. Removing this line takes caution and time so as not to endanger ourselves or cause more damage to the reef removing the entanglements. Thankfully, all the divers did a wonderful job removing as much fishing line as possible.
Our second dive was an example of the importance divers can have on a coral reef system. The popular Breaker’s reef was our second dive of the day and because this dive site sees a frequency of divers the trash collected was minimal in comparison with Paul’s reef.
Along with our afternoon dives and our other event occurring at Phil Foster park, overall we collected over 200lbs. of trash! To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
We would like to thank all the caring individuals who joined us for our 4th Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup event. With your help we can help preserve the natural beauty of our oceans.