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News and Media

News and Media

by Founder and President Kurt Lieber

ODA Kids CrewAs the New Year begins and we all start to act on our resolutions, ODA is doing the same-and has started expanding our volunteer base by enlisting some enthusiastic young people from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.  

It has been a dream of mine to somehow, someway, get young hearts and minds involved with ODA, not only to help with the manual labor of physically removing the man-made debris (although let's be honest, they have WAY more energy!), but also with the educational aspects of what we are all about: informing the public of the damage that this junk-our junk-creates within marine ecosystems.

Marymount Middle School to the rescue

Tim Pearson is a science teacher at Marymount Middle School in Santa Barbara.  He has been volunteering with ODA since last summer, and through his activities and email postings with his students and their parents, has been fostering their interest in helping ODA.  Well, this past Saturday, January 18th, it all came together very nicely!

news 2014-01-18-Crew-beforecleanup-1LR 1452-800

Our divers were Graham Futerfas, Jeff Larson, and I.  Rex Levi was there as captain, with Jim Lieber (today's photographer) and Lisa Davis rounding out the deck support.  From there, the list of volunteers gets more impressive; we had a total of 29 people show up through the course of the day.  Because some people came later, we didn't get everyone's name, so I am sorry if your name doesn't show up here.  Please come back again to help and get to know us better!

Shore Crew volunteers: Paul, Christy, Tommy, Kathy, Alani, Vickie, Will, Scott, Samantha, Sofie, Logan, Caleb, Herman, Christy, Leila, Jessie, Connor, Dawn, and Steve.  Phew, what a GREAT and enthusiastic crew!

Heavy lifting requires help

The Harbor Patrol also had two of their people helping us.  They were on a small barge that was rigged with a davit.  They hooked up a metal tray to a cable and were able to haul up some of the heavy stuff that we found.

news 2014-01-18-WorkerswlistingbargenbatteriesLR 1496-800batteries in cradle

How heavy you may ask?  Well, Jeff and Graham found a pile of batteries immediately.  They quickly loaded that tray with two batteries, and had them hauled onto the barge.  The guys dropped the basket down to the bottom again and another three batteries were hoisted up.  In all we removed 14 highly toxic batteries from the ocean floor.  Nine of those weighed about 100 pounds each!  I can't tell you how handy that barge turned out to be, but I'm sure each one of our young volunteers would gladly tell you.

Beyond batteries

We also found a plethora of other junk.  Over 90 feet of plastic tubing, a bicycle, car tires, 2 toasters, 2 water pumps, a pillow, tool box, 3 hand saws, bait bag, plastic bucket, fire extinguisher, fish finder, cooking pans, microwave, computer, space heater, 200 lbs of chain…the list goes on.  In all we estimate that the day's haul weighed 1,400 pounds-that's well over half a ton!

Alani hauling trap up onto dockVolunteer Crew at days end

Like our last outing here, we could only do one dive, because we had to vacate the area when the boat came back to its slip.

Much more work to do

Harbor Patrol barge and <em>Clearwater</em> So, this was our 2nd time working on these boat slips.  There are 16 slips in total that we'd like to clean, and so far we've only worked on two of them, AND we aren't even done with those two.  With the help of all these great volunteers, we'll be back soon.

Folks, this isn't easy work, and it is dirty.  One of the most disturbing things I am seeing here is a complete disregard for these waters.  I am not saying that the boat operators who are currently in these slips put this stuff there.  But somebody is doing it, and contaminating this beautiful harbor-and the harbor is intimately connected with the rest of the ocean.  Like they say, "We all live downstream."

Leak locally, damage globally

news 2014-01-18-BasketobatteriesLR 1427-800Let's explore one aspect of this debris in a bit more depth.  There are bait tanks just two slips down from the sites we've cleaned, and there is a breeding pen for White Sea Bass (endangered) another three slips away.  The lead and acid in those batteries is toxic waste.  What I see on the bottom is a serious cause for concern.  Right in this area live octopus, sea stars, sea hares, nudibranches, anemone, crabs, sea lions, and numerous species of fish.  I even saw the vertebrae of some dolphins down there.  It is ugly down there, with plastic tubes, wires, various electronic devices, chairs, milk crates, and batteries.  It is not enough to clean up this mess; we humans have to change our ways and work together to prevent future degradation of the oceans upon which we depend for our existence.

Will you be part of this effort?

After seeing what these wonderful young volunteers did, I'm convinced they are becoming powerful ambassadors for change. Please let us know if you would like to join us on a future "Harbor Cleanup Day." Email us at

Check out the day's photos!