By Founder and President Kurt Lieber
While we haven't been hit by the kind of winter storms that have crippled places like Boston, we have been getting some rain, and with it huge waves over the last month or so. Not wanting to put our crew at risk, I had to cancel several planned dives during the last couple months.
This past Sunday, we saw an opening in the weather and took our boat the LegaSea out to visit some dive sites that folks have been telling me have nets on them. Thanks for those reports people! And PLEASE do let me know if you find any more nets or traps. Please visit our website to fill out a simple Debris Report: www.oceandefenders.org/report
Back to the Conservation Vessel
Even though the weather reports were predicting rain, as we were loading the boat up with all our gear, the skies were only partly cloudy with no rain clouds in sight. This day, our ODA Dive Team was made up of Jeff Connor, Peter Fulks, Mike Jessen, and Bob Walls. Rex Levi captained the boat, with Jim Lieber, Dave Merrill and I helping out on the deck.
On our way to the site we saw something like 50 container ships resting at anchor. There was a labor dispute in the harbors of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the container ships were waiting for that to be resolved before they could off-load their cargo.
For me, it was a sad reminder of all the plastic stuff that China sends our way. Most of which will end up in landfills, and then on to the rivers and their eventual graveyard, the oceans….
Speaking of ocean cemeteries
When we finally got to the site near Huntington Beach, the waters were calm and clear. The guys jumped in and said the "UW vis" (aka underwater visibility) was great, at about 30-40 feet! But it became worse as they approached the site, between 5-8 feet.
They were down for about 40 minutes and reported that there was indeed significant net on the site. So, we will come back as soon as possible, with lift bags and knives in hand, to remove all that we safely can.
There was obvious damage being done to the benthic life such as the gorgonians and huge anemones pictured here above. [See our slide show below for larger-sized images!]
Because we have never seen this net before, I made the call to scout it out first for safety and strategy purposes. Thanks to Peter's video footage, we can show our expedition/dive planners what this site looks like so they can prepare for the debris-removal dive. They need to see and assess how badly entangled the net is on the reef so that they can plan accordingly, which means that we can select specific divers for their set of skills. Depending on the difficulty of the situation we can use people with Rescue Diver, Dive Master, or Dive Instructor certifications. If the site requires that the divers stay down for an extended amount of time, say up to an hour, we'll use our Technical Divers. If it is really complicated and need them to stay down for over an hour, we call on our Rebreather Divers
While our scouts didn't see any fish trapped in the net, they were swimming right next to it.
We saw plenty of benthic life struggling to find a way to live with that massive net suffocating them. Don't worry, little friends, we will be back!
Stimulating Community Awareness
I've been invited to give a lot of talks over the last couple of months. On February 8th, I met with the highly motivated kids of Pegasus Middle School, in Huntington Beach. Then later that week, I presented to Talbert Middle School.
On February 19th I met with about 30 people at a gathering that Pamela Henrikssen puts on once a month. She calls it Sea Drinks, and the events are held in Dana Point, CA. Pamela does an outstanding job of inspiring people to attend these edifying meetings. It was a real pleasure to talk "sea talk" with longtime ODA volunteers Marc and Cheryl McCarthy who attended as well. ODA is still celebrating Cheryl's recent joining of the ODA Advisory Board!
Sea Drinks is a group that gathers not just to hear about what nonprofit groups are doing in Orange County, but to actually get involved. Several people came up to me afterwards and offered help in a variety of ways. You'll be hearing more about those collaborations in the very near future.
I can sense the end of winter is upon us. The last day for lobster hunting is right around the corner: on March 18th. Armed with nothing more than our scuba tanks, cameras, UW scooters, and good energy--we'll be out there doing what we do best: REMOVING MAN-MADE DEBRIS.
Thank you for your continued support and interest in doing what we can in our lifetimes to make sure future generations have a healthy and vibrant ocean to explore.