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News and Media

News and Media

By ODA Hawai’i Island Chapter Leader Sarah Milisen

Kona Honu Divers donated their largest boat, Honu One, to Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) for our 6th and final cleanup charter of 2023 (don’t worry – that’s not all – 2024 dates are on the books!) and this charter has become so sought after there was a waitlist!

Even our dedicated photographer for these events, Bo Pardau, was out volunteering on his birthday! Thanks, Bo!

With a full boat of divers, we had pristine conditions in Kona, Hawai’i for the start of the winter season which brings bigger swells. Previous charters haven’t been able to get to Trail of Tears (the south side of Keahole) for several months, so divers were ready and stoked to learn we were going to do both our dives there on November 28th.

We know there's all kinds of underwater flora and fauna to protect and defend - like this coral and orangeband surgeon fish - so we were chomping at the bit!

Orangeband surgeon fish

The volunteer divers (17) for this outing were: Ryan Beberwyck, Karen Bohner, Juan Chacin, Erin Clement, Ally Dalton, Jacques Delorme, Donna Goodale, Maile Goss, Chad Merrill, Sarah Milisen, Dot Norris, Bo and Jamie Pardau, Harvey Surprenant, Laurel Whillock, Tony White, and Ron Wolfe.

Divers jumped in after the game plan was set, and we all immediately found new, fresh fishing line and lead weights.

UW Ocean Defenders Alliance Diver removing fishing lines from coral

Lots of fishing line hadn’t even had the chance to accumulate any algae, the metal prongs of the lead anchors were also free of rust or corrosion. Divers can dive here regularly, on a monthly basis, to clean up our reefs – but that will not eliminate the problem. The daily toll that shore fishing takes on our reefs is apparent, especially after missing months cleaning this gorgeous and diverse reef.

Our ocean conservation divers found and cleared off line that was strung between large boulders and corals – creating a clothesline-entangling device along the reefs which could make a manta ray, turtle, dolphin, or monk seal’s terrifying injury or death a stark reality.

 We rescued some beautiful live coral heads from algae-covered fishing line (see this photo of Tony diligently untangling line) and untangled numerous already dead coral heads covered in bails of fishing line.

ODA Diver works to untangle abandoned fishing line

An hour into the dive, and low on air, we were nowhere near finished, but we returned to the boat with full (and heavy) bags for a surface interval (rest) and then gave it another go. 

Divers spread out a little more on the second dive, some heading south to check on the reef structure, and collect some older, balled-up line on some dead coral heads, as the rest of the divers tackled an area more towards the point where the fishing platforms (old pipe construction) still stand.

Divers were so dedicated, at least half a dozen so focused on getting their line and searching for lead, that they would have missed the huge female monk seal watching us from above, as we cleaned up her home.

Monk seal keeps an eye on the ODA cleanup crew

Eventually all the divers alerted the other (harder at work) volunteers, and we all took a moment to appreciate the life we were there to protect. Hawaiian monk seals are extremely endangered, with only approximately 1400 individuals left in their population. They are endemic to the Hawaiian Island chain, yet only half a dozen residents frequent the Big Island of Hawai’i. These few monk seals seem to especially love the dive sites that get the most fishing pressure. Cleaning up these reefs is essential for these rare and special creatures.

As we untied from our makeshift mooring after two dives, I happened to look over at a beautiful little Honu (turtle) casually swimming past just above the reef – a precious reminder why we need to protect and care for our reefs as Ocean (creature) Defenders. This is not the one I saw but this is one ODA encountered a few years ago with a hook in its neck. You can see why we need to keep these coastal waters free and clear of lines and hooks!

Honu turtle with harmed by hazardous derelict fishing gear

If you want to see ocean wildlife like this protected, please help by donating to make more of these ghost gear cleanups happen – you can designate your contribution as a holiday gift for a loved one or just because you care about our oceans! 

ODA Ocean Cleanup Crew with Catch of the Day

Total cleanup estimates for this outing on November 28th: 4500 feet of fishing line, 100+ lead weights, five spark plugs, 15 lures, 30+ hooks (5 HUGE hooks!), eight golf balls, and some PVC debris. Estimated at ~200 pounds with all the collected lead!