There are many ways to fight back against pollution and on Bonaire, a little Dutch island less than 160 kilometers off the coast of Venezuela, this takes the form of scuba diving cleanups.
While Bonaire may be known for a lot of things, it is perhaps best known as a snorkel and scuba diving destination thanks to crystal clear waters and fringing reefs that can be accessed just a hop, skip and a jump from the shoreline.
Every year thousands of water-loving enthusiasts travel to this southern location to enjoy warm weather, world-class windsurfing and some of the best shore diving in the epic marine park that surrounds this island.
And given that Bonaire’s number one selling feature is its marine environment, you can understand why it’s important to protect it.
In Bonaire, local dive shops and environmental groups are invested in the beauty and conservation of their waterways. Scuba diving cleanups have become a regular occurrence as organizations aim to keep their marine animals safe and coral reefs as pristine as possible – after all, it’s this marine ecosystem that drives people to visit this little slice of paradise.
This past Saturday, January 26th, 2019, we had the opportunity to join Dive Friends along with several other co-organizers for a quarterly Dive Cleanup in their sailing club marina. The cleanup initiative brought together roughly 127 divers of all different skill levels.
Armed with mesh bags and full cylinders of air provided by Dive Friends, volunteers took to the water collecting as much trash as could fit in our bags for 45 minutes.
Overall, the dive cleanup brought in approximately 700 kilograms (1,540 lbs) of trash which was sorted into plastic, glass, metal, rubber, wood, cloth, paper, and mixed material. The clean up covered an underwater area of 4,000 square meters (4,3055 square feet) at depths ranging from 1 – 30 meters (1 to 100 feet).
The most problematic marine debris was plastic fragments, glass bottles, and metal scraps. The most unusual item found was a pair of fireman’s pants.
Sadly, there is no place left untouched by pollution – and as you can see Bonaire is no exception.
Plastic bottles, leftover fishing line, car tires, metal scraps… It never ceases to amaze me the amount of junk that people will carelessly discard into the water.
On some of our first dives at iconic Bonaire dive sites such as Salt Pier, we were very surprised at the trash that was left discarded on the bottom.
It really made me realize that whether I’m traveling the world or back home in Canada – human neglect and ignorance remains the same.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – pollution is a problem for our planet.
Cleaning up the damage that has already been done, like we did this weekend, is only a small piece of the puzzle. Awareness and education – like teaching people to pick up after themselves and be smart consumers – help tackle our pollution problem at its source. But this doesn’t happen overnight.
For now, just because you’re not a scuba diver doesn’t mean you can’t contribute. When it comes to our oceans, we need all hands on deck, whether you’re picking up a plastic bag, empty beer can or plastic straw, every little bit counts. It all means one less piece of litter in the environment, and ultimately one less piece of litter that ends up in the sea.
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