by Founder and President
With March in full bloom now, and the winter storms subsiding, ODA is gaining more opportunities to be back out on the water. On Sunday, March 17th, we let loose the dock lines and headed out under cloudy skies with no wind. The seas were pretty flat and our collective spirits were high.
I had received a report via our online "Report Debris" form that there was an abandoned trap inside the Pt. Vicente Marine Protected Area (MPA). As we approached the site, I noticed a floating marker with a black flag on it just outside the MPA. This is how gillnets are identified. As far as I know, gillnets are NOT allowed inside California state waters. This thing was less than a mile off shore from Palos Verdes, and about a half mile long.
I recorded the GPS coordinates and called the Department of Fish and Wildlife hotline (888-334-2258) to report it. I have been in contact with the warden who is responsible for our area (District 19), and they are going to investigate this destructive and deadly net.
We continued to the reported location of the abandoned trap and anchored in 60 feet of water inside the MPA. Our divers quickly suited up in their dry suits and other gear, dropped over the side, and covered about 100 yards-but were unable to find the trap. Too often currents move traps, dragging them along the bottom and damaging the delicate forms of life that call the ocean floor home.
So, we left the MPA and moved on to our next site where we were treated to a spectacular area, full of life. We saw everything from sun stars, and tube worms, to nudibranchs and gorgeous kelp forests, complete with schools of fish.
Volunteer divers Greg Cooke, Tom Dodson, Al Laubenstein, and John Krieger located an abandoned trap with 100 feet of polypropylene line floating in the water above it, and they floated the entire hazardous mess to the surface-where we pulled it onto the boat with our davit. Nice work team!
After that, we moved the boat a short distance and dropped down onto a beautiful rocky reef, where the divers quickly found 2 more traps. At that point they were running low on air, so we marked the GPS coordinates and will head back there soon to retrieve them.
On our way back to port we were treated to a grand sight. Hundreds of dolphins, maybe close to a thousand, were stampeding eastward; dozens of them were leaping totally out of the water! These were common dolphins, but to us there was nothing at all common about them. They are absolutely gorgeous animals-and a thrill to see and be amongst. We could hear them as they broke the surface and then again when they came crashing back into the water. It was a GREAT way to end a very fruitful day of ODA being back in action.
Every time we are out on a dive expedition, we remove a wide variety of trash from the ocean. On this day, we were happy to get these plastic animal killers - balloons - out of harm's way!
I offer thanks to all of ODA's dedicated volunteers, and to all of you out there who continue to give us your support. We could not accomplish this important work without you!