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News and Media

News and Media

By ODA Hawai’i Island Chapter Leader Sarah Milisen

Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) is committed to tackling some serious debris missions in the month of August here on the Big Island, and also on Maui and Oahu!

ODA hit the ground running on August 1st with one of our dive boat partners Kona Honu Divers on board their biggest boat, Honu One. With a full set of divers and crew, we ventured off to Keahole Point and our adopted dive sites. 

We’re thankful for our KHD crew today: John C – captain, Ari Demery, and Maile Goss.

The awesome Ocean Defenders volunteer divers on board: Cathie Becker, Karen Bohner, Katie Browder, Laura Cartwright, Juan Chacin, Marlene Demery, Phil Demery, Donna Goodale, Cameron McDonald, Dot Norris, Bo Pardau (photographer – thank you!), Jamie Pardau, Mikena Shay, Sheryl Robinson, Art Tarsa, Bruce Watkins, and me (Sarah Milisen).

Our first stop was just south of Keahole point, known locally as Trail of Tears (for the destruction caused by a loose pipe at one point).

It was surgy in the shallow water where most of the debris was found and made for a very challenging dive for all our divers.

We had many new first-time volunteers, and lots of veterans – so about half of the divers on board had not yet been here to cleanup this dive site. The visibility was cloudy (for Hawai'i standards) and the surge sometimes pushing us all roughly 20 feet side to side.

ODA diver removes fishing line that smothers coral heads.

It was very frustrating to see a coral head, all covered in fishing line, and have to wait out the surge just to be able to get down there for a couple minutes and carefully untangle the little coral head before the surge picked back up again.

It's delicate work removing abandoned fishing line from coral.

After an hour of trying patience and dwindling results, we all headed towards the surface...and we stopped to take a group photo!

Divers with their ODA ocean debris collection bags

Back onboard we gathered for a recap and combined our debris. We realized that all together we had hauled out a surprising amount of line and lead on just a single dive!

There was quite a lot of lead collected – we estimate that we collected over 300 pieces on the single dive! In addition, we retrieved some cans, a fiberglass chunk, some metal construction material, a couple bottles, about a dozen lures, and about 1800 feet of fishing line!

We could have continued there, but conditions at sea were not improving, and the surge made our jobs very difficult, so our team decided to tie up to the north side of Keahole Point for our second dive of the day.

Just north of Keahole point sits two of our other adopted dive sites – Keahole Wash Rock and Sand Chute (AKA Tako City). We hadn't been to Wash Rock in a while, so we went in to survey and clean what we could.

A dive team took DPVs (Diver Propulsion Vehicles) to search for deeper debris beyond the dropoff, and then continued their search in shallow water, immediately next to shore.

news 2023 08 08 16 UW Coral head 4LR 1200w wm

Divers were confused as to where they should be going to go retrieve debris – because everywhere we went at this dive site was pristine! There were perhaps a dozen small, singular items brought back on this dive! The coral heads were completely healthy, huge, beautiful corals that were un-smothered.

Light-orange colored coral headLight colored mounded coral headBeautiful Hawaii coral head

Reef structure intact, shallow and deep. Not a trace of line could be found. We were all confused, and astonished. Divers were coming up to the team leaders with questioning looks - as if they had failed. But truly, what has happened was we have succeeded! We were last here about nine months ago, and there was line and lures and lead. We did collect debris – and the reef, for the moment, is still debris free!

It's a funny feeling, to feel unaccomplished, AND accomplished at the same time. Our mission was to look for debris and collect what we could. We "failed" in that measure – but we have been successful at adopting this site, and managing it properly, and the reef is gorgeous to show for it.

Harlequin shrimp
Yellow tangs

A spotted eagle ray casually glided by. A turtle was found resting under a ledge, free of entanglement hazards. This is what the reef should look like. And we should all be so proud as to be the Defenders of this Ocean, protecting the reef and its inhabitants, to keep them safe and clean. We have succeeded here for now. But it will take vigilance. It will require care. It's not over as long as fishing is going on in the area – and we are going to continue to defend. 

ODA Crew with Catch of the Day

Thank you to all our donors, volunteers, advocates, partners, and passionate people for making ODA what it is today – and allowing us to make an impact for YOU by cleaning the waters for each and every sea creature that calls these waters home. If you would like us to clean more oceans for you, please click this link to help make it happen!