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News and Media

News and Media

By ODA Hawai’i Island Chapter Leader Sarah Milisen

Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) had just completed their 9th Honokohau Harbor cleanup on Sunday, November 13th, but that wasn’t enough for our devout volunteers!

Just two days later, on Tuesday November 15th, Kona Honu Divers (KHD) volunteers teamed up with us to do a massive two-tank dive off their biggest boat, Honu One, for an epic ocean cleanup.

ODA-Hawaii divers and deckhandsReady to go! Here's our crew of divers and deckhands.

KHD’s last outing with ODA (in October) succeeded in pulling up bags and bags full of fishing line and lead weights at an unmoored site to the south of Keahole Point. All the volunteers agreed there was a lot more work do to there, so the first question I got when our repeat divers showed up at the boat was, “Are we going back there for more?!”

Ocean cleanup expedition boat before departure

Divers were eager for more line, hooks, lead, and construction materials – and unfortunately all those things are too common off Keahole Point. This point, known as Otec (or NELHA) to the community, is the westernmost point of Big Island, and it gets deep – quick – so fishermen are known to frequent this site and can get big fish – like trevally, ahi tuna, amberjack, and even ono – right off the point. There are also deep pipes and debris from previous construction for the Natural Energy Lab, so divers pulled up a lot of metal strapping material and fasteners. Even a shackle or two!

Everyone "splashed in" with their own style...

Divers splashing

Our first dive of the day was very successful!  While cleaning up underwater, our divers had such heavy bags, I went around with the DPV (diver propulsion vehicle) to collect their large loads and give our volunteers new bags, so no burdened swimming was required! A good system was set in place, and divers were busy unwrapping cauliflower and antler corals from their demise.

UW Divers removing debris

We all ran low on air quickly due to the effort we had to expend battling current and working on untangling lots of line, so we all agreed we wanted to stay here and do a second dive.

Divers at safety stop

During our surface interval (break from diving), we were greeted by some resident Hawaiian spinner dolphins – some of us thought they must be inspecting our work! We hoped for a glimpse of our “dolphriends” on our second dive, but divers quickly went back to heads-down-focusing on the task at hand.


We all filled our bags (many times) on our second dive and came back yet again with full bags and (near) empty tanks.

Divers fill their debris collection bags

As we all washed our gear and shared our favorite finds of the day (a large freediving fin, some huge pipe, and some prize-winning lures), we all were grateful for our ability to clean-up the reefs and help make a difference.

It was a gorgeous day in Hawai’i, with lovely friends and new faces on board. We had some new first-time volunteers from KECK Observatory, and our new KHD crew (Maggie and divemaster-in-training Ari) – all were working hard to help our fight for a debris free sea!

Ocean Defenders Crew with Catch of the Day

On just two dives today, we estimate we picked up about 3,000 feet of fishing lines, 200 pounds of lead, and a variety of construction material.

With nearly 20 divers to help pull it all up – the reef structure and the individual coral heads entangled in line were free once again.

ODA thanks all our volunteers for their continued efforts, and we are so happy to see new faces on each of our outings! Check back on our website for our future cleanups on Big Island! Mahalo Nui Loa to all that help make the oceans a cleaner place.

If you'd like to volunteer on an ocean cleanup outing or a beach cleanup, please visit our Get Involved page!