How divers can remove
Other things divers can
do for the sea
How we can help the oceans
when we're not in them
you know, I've been spending lots of time
with underwater debris, even before Touch
the Sea began the Bonaire Harbour Healing
Project almost a decade ago. On practically
every dive beneath Bonaire's Old Pier, I
bring up a Pocket Cleaner Station bag filled
with the usual fishing line, plastic bottles,
fishing line, rags, fishing line, food and
condensed milk cans, fishing line, bottles
and jars, and fishing line. One thing became
clear as I wrote this list:
The debris is remarkably consistent:
line, from people fishing in
boats as well as off the Pier
primarily from the tugs
repair-related items other than
rags (wires, soldering rods, pieces
of metal), primarily from the tugs
and the line boats.
items (cans, bottles, bones
from terrestrial animals, plastic
cups, forks and spoons, the occasional
metal fork or spoon, ketchup packets
etc.), mostly from boats with residents
such as the fruit boats, fishing
boats, etc., and folks snacking
on the Pier.
razors, toothpaste tubes, clothing,
and other detritus of life from
boats with residents such as
the fruit and fishing boats.
another thing became clear:
Rope damage to coral
#2 Why not get people to stop trashing
the waters, rather than picking up the
same trash over and over? (Duh.) It's mostly
the same people who are dropping trash into
the waters around the Pier, so they're not
difficult to find. We've got to educate them
to use the trash receptacles Selibon has already
placed on and near the Pier.
years ago, I figured out that education
could solve the problem of underwater batteries.
I wrote a flyer about the dangers of batteries
to marine life, my friend Annette Roswell
translated it into Spanish, the Bonaire
Marine Park printed it, and the Marine Park,
the Customs Officers and the Harbourmaster's
Office all cooperated in distributing it.
The numbers of batteries beneath the Pier
dropped drastically and stayed low for years,
and then last summer began to rise again.
I contacted the Marine Park, and Ranger
Edwin Domacasse (Din) has been talking to
the boaters and fishermen at the Pier, and
the Bonaire Fishermen's Association. I've
only found a single battery this year!
now educating the crews and residents of
the vessels which regularly dock at the
Pier, about trash disposal, has begun. Din
includes the issue when he speaks to boaters,
fishers, and folks on the Pier. Selibon
(the island sanitation company) and the
Harbourmaster's Office support these efforts.
My primary contribution (Is there a nicer
term for squeaky wheel or gadfly?) has been
to send e-mail messages whenever I find
anything particularly noteworthy under the
Pier, to those three organizations: the
BMP, Selibon, and the Harbourmaster.
to Ikelite, I can now e-mail photo documentation
along with my messages. Ikelite loaned me
a housing for our digital camera, free of
charge, since I would be using the system
to help marine critters.
housed system is also responsible for the
photos you see on this website.
I haven't forgotten all that fishing line.
Most of the line under the Pier has been
broken because it was entangled. The fisher
can't prevent that; the best solution in
these cases is for divers to remove the
TO REMOVE FISHING LINE
For your safety:
Always carry a cutting instrument - knife or shears - if you intend
to do anything with fishing line. Even very thin fishing line is much
stronger than it appears and can rarely be broken by hand.
For your safety:
Until you feel extremely comfortable removing fishing line, take only
new line with no growth on it. It may be less entangled than overgrown
lines, having been down for less time. Also, it has no growth, such
as fire coral or stinging hydroids, that might sting your hands.
Cut the line or
find an end.
Coil the line
around your hand.
For the safety
of the reef: If there's any tension at all on the line, it's entangled.
To avoid knocking over a coral head or slicing a sponge, swim along
the line as you coil rather than pulling on it.
For the safety
of the reef: When the line goes under or through something, cut it,
secure the coil (see next step), and, if you wish, begin a new coil
on the other side.
For your safety:
secure the line. Wrap an end of the line around the coil, tie the
coil into a knot, somehow stop it from unraveling. That will help
prevent you from becoming entangled in your good deeds!
I carry the coils
in my BC pocket or a Pocket Cleaner Station.
After the dive,
dispose of the line properly. Some fishing supply places in the US
accept line for recycling. Unless you're going to carry the line back
to the US, though, in the islands proper disposal is usually into
a trash can.
To minimize trash,
separate the things that can be reused: hooks, leaders, intact coils
of line, dropped knives, etc. Make them available for reuse if you
can. On Bonaire we try to get them to Din Domacasse, our Bonaire National
Marine Park Chief Ranger, who distributes them to needy fishers.
are the only form of fishing line we find
underwater that are within the control of
the fishers. The fishers are being educated
and requested to dispose of tangles in trash
People fishing have no interest in hooking
humans in the water, but there's nothing
they can do to stop us if we blunder
into their lines. And when we blunder
into their lines their reaction is to
set the hook. So anytime we're in the
water we need to be aware of fishing
activity for our own safety.
a second consequence of fishing that
concerns divers: fishing line. The
hook is baited, the line is cast;
underwater nibblers keep it company
until it lands on the bottom. The
fisher reels it in - and the hook
catches on the bottom. The fisher
tries to free it, fails, and cuts
the line. The line sinks to the bottom.
It may rest directly on living coral,
injuring the polyps it contacts.
may entangle a marine animal. I found
a sharptail eel who had become ensnared
in fishing line and spun its body.
The result of the spin was that the
eel strangled itself. It had not been
hooked; just swimming into the line
and having the wrong instincts for
the situation had resulted in its
crabs, the ones who carry a single
piece of sponge like an umbrella,
also have the wrong instincts for
dealing with fishing line. On four
occasions I've freed sponge crabs
who had become so thoroughly entangled
in fishing line that they couldn't
move at all. Without a diver's interference,
the future for these animals was slow
death by starvation.
take a little time on your dives to
remove fishing line, especially new
fishing line. Be careful not to get
caught by hooks on the line! If there
are hooks, leaders, or weights on
the line you collect, try to make
them available for reuse.
found one of the entangled sponge
crabs, not by noticing the crab, but
because the line I was coiling turned
out to be the same line the crab was
tangled in. If there are any more
critters entangled down there, let's
hope that the lines they're tangled
in are the ones we're able to remove!
WE CAN HELP
divers we love the sea and all the animals
within it. We practice good buoyancy control
because we respect reefs and wish to protect
them. We willingly dedicate some of our
dives to removing debris that people created
and allowed to end up underwater. Without
question, the actions of divers have had
and will continue to have a beneficial effect
on marine creatures.
threats to the world's oceans (and other
bodies of water) are on a much greater scale
than divers can deal with underwater. The
threats include -- but aren't limited to
-- pollution and overfishing, but the biggest
threat to the oceans is people's ignorance
about them. If people don't know how wonderful
the underwater world is, why should they
waste money, effort, or time protecting
it? So do something on land, as well as
doing things underwater, to help the oceans.
WE CAN HELP THE OCEANS WHEN WE'RE NOT IN
Learn from Your Experiences
you've spoken to groups about the oceans
and their residents, let us know your
experiences so we can learn from them.
Write to (link to us here?) and let
who you spoke to; if it was children,
what was their age group
how you arranged it?
how long your presentation(s)
did you use: slides, video, live
animals, dive gear, games?
you answer questions? What were the
most common ones?
what would you have done differently,
a very personal scale, every non-diver we
interest in our underwater experiences is
someone who's more likely to vote in favor
of the oceans (so to speak) next election.
Bear in mind that warm and fuzzy experiences
achieve this result much better than near-death
you thought about talking to school groups?
Residents at old-age homes? Summer camps?
If you're worried about what to say, the
Coral Reef Alliance has a slide show prepared
for presentation by interested folks. Find
it at their website, www.coralreefalliance.org.
In addition to giving presentations about
the underwater world, divers and non-divers
letters to lawmakers urging them to support
legislation that's beneficial to the environment.
Learn who your lawmakers are, and how to
contact them, by checking (I'm still checking
for the site that gives this info)
letters to businesses and organizations
praising their good treatment of the oceans
letters to businesses and organizations
censuring their poor treatment of the oceans
a less personal scale, you can support organizations
that support the oceans. Here are a few
(if you're a supporter of others, let us
know about them)
for Marine Conservation
(the Coral Reef Alliance) dedicated to keeping
coral reefs alive around the world.
Reef Environmental Education foundation)
certainly not the first person who's realized
that people protect what they love, or that
when divers share their love of the sea
they can create more protectors. It's in
the methods for how to spread the word that
we falter. I've made a few suggestions.
What are yours? E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and we'll add them to the website. The more
ideas we have the more likely it is that
we'll have one or more activities each person
feels comfortable doing.
US Government tells us what it's doing about
Coral Reef Protection at www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/coral/.
© 2000-2008 Dee
Scarr - All Rights Reserved.