By ODA Hawai’i Island Chapter Leader Sarah Milisen
Our dive boat partner Kohala Divers has officially adopted a highway stretch along the Kawaihai Coast of Hawai’i Island!
ODA came to lend a hand for Kohala’s first highway cleanup and doubly help by joining in with the Adopt the Blue underwater cleanup immediately after.
Volunteers showed up for one or both of the events to clean up our coastline on a calm, crystal clear beautiful Sunday, March 19.
It became hot and sweaty work along the highway – lots of construction, car parts, and food packaging was found on the two-mile stretch. Adopt-A-Highway programs are state-run, and so the government provides volunteers with safety vests, gloves, and bags to help with the process. The filled bags get picked up by state workers along our stretch of highway.
We all found much more than we thought we would – lots of food boxes, plastic bottles, car parts that had fallen off, and lots of roadway construction material was picked up.
After our piles of bags were placed out of traffic’s way along the road, we removed our safety vests and traded them for wetsuits. A briefing took place on what to grab and what to leave behind, and how to safely remove line and lead from coral heads.
Then we jumped into the warm waters off of the Kawaihae Marina and got to work!
Divers went to work in two groups - the Kawaihae boat launch break wall on the beach side, and a collapsed pier up in Kawaihae, known locally as “Nudi Madness.” Divers grabbed gloves, cutting tools. and our official ODA canvas collection bags and got to work.
A lot of the fishing line and lead fishing weights found along the break wall had been there for a while. Sediment had mostly buried the coral rubble and debris, and most of us found our lead and line by a single, algae-covered tail poking out of the sand like a little garden eel’s backside. As we grabbed the small line, it would unbury itself from the sand and we would follow our little line as it led us away from its origin to the conglomerate below. These buried lines criss-crossed underneath the sand, and pulling one line often lead to another one, until we finally got to the lead weight at the end. It was difficult to spot this line, but once we got the feel for it, we found these little tails everywhere. After 80 minutes, our bags were heavy and our hands tired.
Divers in the Nudi Madness team were gratefully surprised by a lack of fishing line and lead, so they searched for line and just found nudibranchs, instead! Nudibranchs are lovely little colorful sea slugs that live all over the ocean’s environments - from the muckiest stagnant harbors to the clearest waters with bustling currents. Roughly a dozen species of sea slugs were seen today. Gloomy Nudibranchs (Tambja morosa) among the favorites, these guys can be inches long, and a gorgeous blue and black combo. Thorunna kahuna was another favorite - a slender, bright neon pink nudibranch that just demands attention with their warning coloration. Painted Nudibranchs and Decorated Nudibranchs were sprinkled around, adding color and life to the reefs we were cleaning up.
Divers and shore cleanup crews were all stoked to have made the ocean, the highway, and their local harbor area, a cleaner place. Below you can see selected shots of our "Catch of the Day" from our ocean cleanup.
Cleaning up along the highway has a direct impact to flowing downstream to the ocean, especially on an island.
Picking up that garbage at its source insures it will not wind up in the ocean.
There is always more work to be done: more lines, more fishing, more lead - but it’s nice to know that some dives, like Nudi Madness, still exist without the direct impact of fishing apparent on the reef structure.
If you’d like to help with the next ODA cleanup in your area - please keep your eye on our calendar!