Cortney Benson takes a giant stride off the “Giant Stride” to lead Key Dives’ monthly cleanup dive. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

Over the last two years, Key Dives and its loyal customers have religiously and relentlessly cleaned up the reefs on Project Aware Dive Against Debris cleanup dives. Every month, they pull up hundreds of pounds of old rope, anchors, trap pieces and miscellaneous plastics.

This past Sunday, the divers visited Sand Pool and Canyon Lands, two sites they hadn’t visited in over a year. While they did come up with armfulls of marine debris, it was far less than they’d expected for such a long interim since their last visit.

With calm conditions between dives, the group gets together to celebrate another successful day cleaning up the reef. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

“We didn’t come up with a ton of stuff, but that’s actually such a good thing,” said Key Dives’ marine conservation coordinator, Cortney Benson. “What we’re doing is working!”

A first-time cleanup participant agreed, saying, “I wish we got more ‘cause it feels good to help, but at the same time I’m really happy we didn’t find that much trash out there. Can’t wait to do this again.”

Key Dives’ customers participate in a debris removal underwater, taking rope off the reef. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly
Invasive species like lionfish wreak havoc on the reef. Key Dives’ divemasters and instructors are trained to spear them on dives and bring them up safely (where they can be de-spined and filleted). TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly
On cleanup dives, everyone gets involved, including photographers. Keys Weekly diver and digital editor Tiffany Duong uses her dive knife to get old rope off the reef. CONTRIBUTED
Cortney Benson uses a lift bag to bring up heavy debris from the reefs around Alligator Reef. Key Dives’ instructors and divemasters often use the tools to help lift heavy anchors and trap debris they find on cleanup dives. TIFFANY DUONG/Keys Weekly

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