This year’s winner: tires. That is right, tires…on rims at the bottom of the sea. We never know what will be the most bizarre piece of trash we will find as we descend to the depths each year for our annual underwater cleanup. Aug. 19 marked our sixth year on the Thunderbolt Wreck and Coffins Patch National Marine Sanctuary. This year was no exception to the amount of trash found below the surface of our beautiful ocean.
Nineteen volunteers embarked off the coast of Key Colony Beach centrally located in the Florida Keys with A Deep Blue Dive Center to participate in Ocean Conservancy’s annual worldwide Coastal Cleanup. The first stop was the Thunderbolt Wreck located in 115 feet of water just five miles off shore of Marathon, Fla. Unfortunately, a large amount of monofilament line, steel leaders, hooks, weights and lures stay on the wreck. This can be a dangerous recipe for divers and animals that can become entangled and caught. The volunteers split into two teams of divers and brought up a mélange of fishing gear. One very large anchor was just too big for them to bring up and would have required a lift bag to retrieve.
The second location for the divers was Coffins Patch National Marine Sanctuary (NMS). Because of its NMS designation, there is no fishing / no take law but we even found line entangled in the corals there. Most of the trash we brought up included broken trap pieces that had washed into the area, as well as items that fall overboard such as snorkel gear, sunglasses, boat hooks, bottles, wrappers, etc. This is where we found the tires. It never ceases to amaze me – the things we find on the bottom of the sea.
The Florida Keys has North America’s only living Continental Reef system. It is a precious resource that provides more than just the pleasure of fishing and diving, it is an integral part of our delicate eco-system that is in danger of dying off or being damaged to the point of no return. It is our responsibility to care for and protect that resource for many generations to come. Project Aware is also an integral part of assisting a small shop like ours with materials for these events to be successful. Professional photographer Larry Benvenuti once again helps us provide documentation of the cleanup efforts and provides the beautiful pictures of exactly what we are trying to keep thriving for years to come.