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News and Media

News and Media

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

[Be sure to check out tons of pictures below in our slideshow]

Volunteer Karla with dive flags Well, the holidays are upon us, and your ODA team was greeted to some holiday cheer in the form of 37-degree weather (with ice on the ground and cars!), on Sunday, December 18th.

That’s what we woke up to as we headed to San Pedro to board Mr. Barker’s LegaSea. Somebody, remind me that this is California, for heaven’s sake! Those of you farther north and east might be laughing, but this is serious cold for southern California! :-)

Vigorous and Virtuous Volunteers

Anyhoo: as I was scraping the ice off my car, I was thinking about how dedicated our volunteers are—and feeling thankful for them and their energy. To go out in this kind of weather and intentionally immerse yourself in 50-degree water solely to search for ocean-destroying nets and traps takes a special kind of dedication, truly. In fact, some might call us crazy.

Crazy for the oceans, are we Ocean Defenders!

This time out, our divers were: Mike Bartick (underwater photos), Bill Maley, Walter Marti (underwater video), Jim McKeeman, and Dave Merrill.

Topside deck crew was: Linda Blanchard (topside photos), Krista Espino (topside photos), and Karla Reinhardt.

Ocean Defenders Volunteer Boat & Dive Crew before departure

Mike is a great underwater photographer, visiting from his home in the Philippines. You’ll see some of his skills displayed here in our photo gallery. Some of the best we’ve ever had from our dive crew. Thanks a million Mike!

Krista is an excellent photographer in her own right. This was her first time out with us, and she helped by taking some of these great topside shots, as well as helping with all the deck support work.

Ghost Gear of the Olympic Vessel Wreck

We headed out to a dive site we know well, the wreck of the Olympic. It lies in 100 feet of water, about three miles directly south of Los Angeles Harbor. By the time we arrived at the site, it had warmed up a bit. And soon, everyone was in their dive gear and heading down to the wreck.

Within a few minutes we started seeing lift bags break the surface. Alrighty! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Peaceful Solstice to you, oceans! This is what we love to see; knowing something that is causing destruction down there is about to be hauled out.

ODA Dive Team member Jim McKeeman with scooter on chain ODA Divers on scooters looking for marine debris ODA SCUBA diver Walter Marti scouting wreck for ghost gear

Jumbled mess on wreck Olympia Tire on wreck Olympic

Because of this being a deep dive, the divers were only down about 30 minutes. But they were very busy, soon sending two traps to the surface. One of them turned out to be a massive crab pot. Whoa! In our entire 16 years of removing abandoned traps and pots, we have only found four of these deadly monsters.

Gift of Life

Jim and Dave noticed that the pot had stuck in it a very large--almost a foot across--rock crab. They delicately lifted him/her and released her back to her natural habitat. Sorry we don't have a photo of it, but the underwater camera got flooded just at that time. That said, we can’t ask for a better holiday present than that: LIFE!

ODA Captin Kurt Lieber pulls an abandoned lobster trap onto boat deck.

After we got those two traps safely on the bow of the LegaSea, we headed out to another wreck site we’ve visited many, many times over the years. This one was in 75 feet of water.

As we motored to the site we were visited by several bow riding Pacific white-sided dolphins. This was a delightful and rare treat. We don’t see this species very often. Thanks for saying hi!

Common Dolphins at bow Common Dolphins

Crab Traps Have to Go

This time, only Mike, Bill, Walter, and Jim went in. Each of them was using a drysuit. Dave tried diving in a wetsuit, but the cold got the better of him.

They found the wreck within a few minutes, and 10 minutes later we had four more lift bags break the surface. Yahoo!!

Another 30 minutes went by and the guys got back aboard. They had found some net around the wreck, but it is very large so we will be going back to retrieve it on another outing.

Soon Jim found another crab pot, attached two lift bags to it and it soon was heading for the surface.

ODA Volunteers pull abandoned crab trap onto boat deck for proper disposal. ODA boat crew work on the stack of abandoned traps

As Karla and I wrestled with this trap, I was stuck by the fact that these things are HEAVY! They weigh over 100 pounds each. We are forever grateful to Mr. Barker and Ms. Burnet for this wonderful boat to haul these heavy items up with. The davit (mechanical lift) makes all the difference!

Seas and Greetings

The seas were really nice this day, at two feet or less. Given that we just had some heavy rain two days before, the underwater visibility was exceptional at something like 25 to 30 feet. But also, because of the rains, there were a lot of plastic items floating on the surface, from bottles to wrappers to bags. A sad reminder that the assault of plastics on our oceans takes many forms, and is relentless. Stay tuned to find out what new project ODA is working on to remove this deadly debris.

If you haven’t done so yet, please take this opportunity to make your holiday gift to the oceans by clicking this link to our donation page. Don’t delay, give today—and help continue this life-saving, ocean defending work!

ODA Crew with Days Catch

Thank you for continuing to support ODA, and for helping to spread the word about how
damaging this ghost gear is. Happy Holidays to you and yours!