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News and Media

News and Media

By Kay Cooper, ODA North Hawai’i Island Volunteer Coordinator

Here on the Big Island of Hawai’i, Ocean Defenders Alliance(ODA) has continued to expand our conservation efforts with our dive shop partners, to reach farther and trickier-to-get-to spots of our oceans. On Thursday, May 2, we ventured out on one such journey with our northern partner, Kohala Divers! This cleanup, which is a Kohala Divers Advanced Cleanup dive, is the third of its kind on their boat Namaka!

ODA Hawai'i Ocean Cleanup Crew before departure

Along the northern Kohala coastline, there are only a couple of small beaches (if you would call them that, more like small patches of sand), amongst the rocky coastline and cliffsides. These are accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only and on roads that are hard to find as some are private or fully fenced off. The locals know all the best areas to get to with their trucks for camping and fishing. One such site, a personal favorite dive site of mine, is Black Point on the northern coastline of Kohala. This site is Kohala Divers second farthest site they venture to on the north and a favorite for the team as it has some incredible underwater structures, such as a diversity of fish and critters, and schools of local fish only found in a couple other sites on the northwest side of the island – the pyramid butterfly fish!

Pyramid butterflyfish

Along with such beauty and incredible diving comes some pretty precarious ocean conditions which make this site hard to get to for Kohala’s normal dive tours. This site is notorious for strong, strong currents, making it difficult to visit frequently; however, if you know the right road and have the right vehicle, it makes for excellent fishing off the lava points that extend to the ocean and has a couple small beaches for camping. 

This is the second time we have visited this site for our cleanup dives, after one of the dive masters went more north than he normally would and noticed a lot of fishing line and lead weights. ODA took the tip and ran with it on October 5, 2023! Here we are visiting the site for a second time to rid it of debris for our ocean critters. 

Our morning started early, checking in at the shop and gearing up on the boat! After a quick explanation of where we were going and what tools were needed, off we went! Only a 25-minute drive to our site, we were pleasantly surprised to see little to no current! The ocean has truly blessed this effort as the two times we visited there has been no current (which is not common for this site). Maybe a “thank-you for your efforts”?!

Dive briefing completed, we decided the first of two dives would all be together, with a surface swim out to our descending location, which was farther north than we have gone before, and away we went!

Ocean Defender Diver ready to haul out ghost gear

This team not only consisted of our incredible 16 volunteers, but also three staff from Kohala Divers – Elias Roberts, Jonah Rondash, and me. We had two dive masters in the water and one surface support. Upon descending we really did not see much, lots of critters, little rubbish. As we continued to explore, the team started to go closer in toward shore and I ventured more north to scout, where I encountered a large net swept across the reef. I began working on this net, and about 20 minutes later I was able to disentangle it from the reef and swim it to meet with the rest of the group.

Kay Cooper removes ghost net

Some divers had their bags filled with fishing line and lead, but not as much as we expected. On our way back to the boat, we landed on a spot with a lot fishing line and lead covering it. The team began their work, spreading out cutting and removing line draped across the reef. This effort needed to be cut short as our air and time were at their limit. We now had a plan for our second dive.  

ODA Ocean Conservation SCUBA Diver removing abandoned fishing lineHe has a meticulous method of "reeling in" the abandoned fishing line!

After a one-hour surface interval (break from diving), the second dive briefing began, and we geared up and began our second dive. This time we decided to break everyone up into two groups, each with a dive master leading a team in different directions, north and south. I took my team back to the first location closer to the boat to finish the deeper line we ran into on our way back from the first dive.

ODA Ocean Cleanup removes derelict debris

The second divemaster went south, as a more exploratory dive to see what lies in the shallows on the other side of the rocky point. A large free-diving fin was found, a snorkel, lots of brand new and older fishing line, lots of rope, large bolts and nuts used as weights, an aluminum can, golf balls, three spark plugs (also used as weights), some rubber and plastic fragments as well.

Removing lost fishing equipment to save marine wildlife!

With an estimated 3,000 feet of fishing line, about 1,000 feet of rope, a very large net, and a total estimated weight of about 60 pounds. What a great turnout and a good haul of rubbish!

Ocean Defenders Alliance Divers remove trash from Hawai'i waters.

This site, I can now say with confidence, is much cleaner and the reef is better off because of it! A large appreciation to all of our incredible volunteers and Kohala staff who made this cleanup possible! Also, to our wonderful longtime ODA volunteer – Bo Pardau – an underwater photographer who always makes it to each event to capture our work efforts on “film.”

ODA Crew with Catch of the DayODA Crew with Catch of the Day

In addition to those already mentioned, the volunteers this day were: Jacques Delorme, Marianne Eichler, Adam Florea, Todd Hackett, Doug Lomenzo, John Moore, Jamie Pardau, Carolina Piel, Ryan Plunkett, Jonah Rondash, Kevin Tadlock, Kevin Tadlock, Laurel Trammell, Don Tremel, Mary Wallingford, Doug Watson and Tony White.

Please continue to look out for future cleanups and reach out if you have any questions, comments, or concerns! Tips on the rubbish locations are always appreciated!

Let's continue our incredible efforts which are only possible with the support of you – from wherever you are. You provide the fuel that keeps us going! 

I want to keep ODA going!