Diver JD Reinbott unravels ghost line from around the reef. Derelict fishing gear can continue to harm corals and animals. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

Upper Keys waters are still seeing bumpy conditions. As a result, we had a few days of canceled dives this past week. But calmer days are on the horizon.  

Dreaming of these calm dive days reminded me of a cool event we have coming up in May.  I.CARE (Islamorada Conservation and Restoration Education) is hosting their inaugural Trash Derby, sponsored by National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. This will help reduce the amount of debris affecting our islands. I.CARE is a nonprofit dedicated to incorporating recreational divers in activities to restore the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. In the first two years, I.CARE has transplanted almost 10,000 corals of varying species of corals. 

This event not only serves as a way to help clean our seas, it is also a fundraiser to help I.CARE continue its work on our reefs. The derby will include one-and-a-half days of debris collection, followed by a family-friendly festival at Founders Park in Islamorada. The festival is open to the public and will include an award ceremony, raffles, silent auction, games and activities, food, music, environmentally-minded vendors and local organizations working to improve our reefs.

The event schedule starts on May 11 at Bud N’ Mary’s Marina for the captains meeting from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. On May 12, debris collection will go from sunrise to sundown, from Key Largo to Big Pine. The trek for trash continues on May 13 from sunrise to 1 p.m. A final weigh-in is slated for 2 p.m. at Founders Park.  The festival and awards ceremonies will be shortly after.  This inaugural event is a win-win for all involved. Not only does it clean our seas, but it also continues the mission of I.CARE, all while getting the community working together for a great cause. And a bonus: it’s fun. For more information or to sign up a team, go to

Divers swim past a giant mound of mountainous star coral. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly
Debris collected by divers in the Florida Keys waters. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly
Eric Billips is is the owner, captain and instructor at Islamorada Dive Center and Floridia Keys Dive Center. He specializes in scuba, rebreather, spearfishing and captaining in the Florida Keys