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Dec 27 2018

Toxic Lead Fishing Weights Removed from Oahu Waters

By Oahu Volunteer Dive Team Coordinator & Photographer Ken Staples

On Saturday, December 22nd we departed with our ocean-defending partners Island Divers on their trustworthy boat the Sea Fox.

ODA volunteer dive gear

Our Holiday Volunteer Crew

Along with me were ODA regulars: Master Instructor Mary Christensen and ODA Oahu Coordinator AJ Jaeger. We were joined by these volunteers who care about the ocean:  Andrew Monnig, Adrian Ramirez, Christina Klemme, Christine Pang, Dan Okumura, Ed McNeill, Ed Sisino, Glenn Roberts, Robert Reynolds, Stephen Brock, Patrick Brock, Taylor Brock, and Thomas Marquette.

Here's a few of them getting ready to dive. Please look at our photo gallery below to see a lot more of these wonderful volunteers in action!

ODA conservation divers

The ODA Hawai’i volunteers were once again led by Mary Christensen who is on staff with Island Divers.

We made our way out close to an area called Spitting Caves, and quickly dropped in and got to work.

Lead Fishing Weights are Toxic to Ocean Life

What did we find? There was a huge amount of monofilament line tangled in the coral and a large amount of lead fishing weights.  We quickly filled two large buckets and several mesh bags with debris.

Bucket full of lead weights removed

Lead is a toxic metal that, in sufficient quantities, has adverse effects on the nervous and reproductive systems of mammals and birds.

When lead fishing sinkers are lost from a broken fishing line or other means, birds and fish can inadvertently eat them.  There have been more studies of the effects of lead on animals in lakes than in oceans. For example, water birds like loons and swans often swallow lead when they scoop up pebbles from the bottom of a lake or river to help grind their food. Eagles ingest lead by eating fish which have themselves swallowed sinkers.

If you look closely at the photo below, you can see this diver's hand is full of lead weights.

ODA Diver cutting fishing line

In addition to the possibility of being ingested, the lead leaches toxins into the water. You've heard of houses with contaminated water because they have lead pipes, right?

Several states have banned the use of lead weights. The fishing industry does offer for sale non-lead fishing weights. They are inexpensive and ecologically sound alternatives to lead fishing weights.

The good news? Our ODA-HI crews have removed almost 1,400 pounds of these nasty lead weights since April of 2017. Imagine the toxin that would be leaching into the water from that much lead! We've got to keep returning to these popular fishing sites and remove these many, many small bits of ghost gear.

“Merry Maids” of the Ocean

Even though we were focused our cleaning in a small area about 40' down, there was a lot of work to do.

Ocean Defender Diver cuts fishing line

There was so much fishing line and weights that we were only able to remove a portion of what was present in the short 45-minute dive.

Removing lost fishing gear

We had two large lift bags attached to each bucket, but still struggled to bring the debris to the surface.

 Buckets of debris being hauled out

Once back aboard the Sea Fox, the atmosphere was electric on our way back to port as we were all proud of the big haul of debris we had just removed. We successfully removed about 150 pounds of lead fishing weights and several hundred yards of fishing lines. 

We'll be back again to this spot soon! 

Boatloads of Thanks & Appreciation

Big mahalos to all the ODA volunteers and to our partner Island Divers. We thought you'd get a kick out of our "side-kick" in this photo!

Crew with catch of the day

And we never forget the ODA supporters who make each outing possible—we thank each one of you.

What a great way to start the Holiday Season....a huge gift to our oceans!

Oahu divers: Our next dive is on January 19th and there are only 16 spots, so grab yours quick by visiting this Island Divers page.

And be sure to check out the photo gallery below before you go! There are many really good photos (thank you, Ken!) illustrating the problems these fishing lines and lead weights create for the corals and life living on the ocean floor. :-(

 
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ODA eliminates dangerous man-made debris which pose serious threats to ocean wildlife and habitats.

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