Deeper water

Knee deep

I have snorkelled since I could swim, and have wanted for as long as I can think to grow up and be a mermaid. I think my tail would be blue…

In waters off Koh Kradan, Trang, Thailand

After years of (literally) dreaming about having the ability to breath underwater, I went and done did my PADI Open Water Certification.

It was a snap decision. Travelling in the western state of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, I wandered into the Scuba Junkie office amidst the humdrum of Semporna to book snorkelling in the famous Coral Triangle; home to the Sipadan Marine Reserve, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s best dive sites.

“If you’re not getting your hands dirty on this issue, you should be.”

“If you have that many days in town, why don’t you just do your scuba diving certification?” It was an irresistibly sensible question. And so, with ten minutes to spare before the three day course began in the windowless, cramped back room of the dive shop, I signed on.

Five days later, after a full day of theory, two days training in the water, and another two of immaculate fun dives off the islands of Mabul and Kapalia, I had joined the ranks of one very special community.

 

 

“Up to here” with it

Back home in Melbourne, Australia my new addiction steered me to significantly colder waters and my dear friends at Dive2U. A family owned and operated business, these guys are un-believable in their engagement with community and conservation.

Just one of their many conservation-geared projects/events, Dive2U owner AJ Morton decided it was high time to take to the marina waters around Blairgowrie Pier and CLEAN UP; a way of giving back to the Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron for their support of the dive community over the years.

(Also see Operation Sponge – the cutest and my favourite – which got a great write up from the ABC).

As the team of 15 divers splintered off into groups, we started at the far (western) end of the marina fingers; working our way east towards the main wall, slowly weaving around the concrete support pillars, passing under the shadows of the yachts above. And boy did we find a lot of rubbish.

Plastic, rope, bits of metal, tyres, pots and pans, hats, clothes… even a mobile phone! As Dive2U reports, however, “it was great to see most of the debris found seems to be accidental… from broken ropes to dropped items. There was no sign of deliberate dumping.”

 

 

The next clean up dive with Dive2U will run in conjunction with the Sea Sheppard Marine Debris Campaign Australia team, and is scheduled for Sunday, 29th April at Mornington Pier. You can also sign up with Dive2U to participate in Slug Safari and contribute to the first nudibranch census run in the area by the Victorian National Parks Association, the 2018 Sea Slug Census.

 

Let’s stop drowning in it

When you hear the ocean is choking with plastic, that’s one thing. Seeing it is another, and both Mabul and Blairgowrie Pier are relatively pristine! When you dig a little deeper on this issue, or look to the leadership of old hat players in this game like Sea Shepherd, the message is clear; we are morally obligated to contribute to removing plastic from marine environments.

Yes, prevention is key. But we continue to accumulate rubbish in our oceans regardless of the present efforts to reduce and refuse plastics.

A recent estimate published in Science predicts that between 4 and 12 million metric tonnes of plastic entered our oceans in 2010 alone, reportedly enough to cover every metre of coastline on the planet. Taking direct action to address the tail end of this enormous influx of crap, groups like Sea Shepherd Australia and the Marine Debris Campaign run volunteer-powered clean ups to remove it from our shores. In 2016 alone, the Marine Debris Campaign removed some 430,000 pieces of junk, more than 75% of which was plastic, much of it represented by single-use items.

Here are the stats from a single 90 minute clean up run in Freemantle.

 

 

I am not going to mince my words here. If you’re not getting your hands dirty on this issue, you should be. Seventy percent of our planet is covered by oceans and seas. These vast spaces are predicted to host millions of marine species, as many as 91% of which remain unknown to science. There’s a parallel universe down there folks. And we’re choking it with plastic.

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