On Saturday, April 9, 2016, 82 volunteer divers collected their tanks from Dive Friends Bonaire @ Yellow Submarine and headed over to Te Amo Beach to conduct a Dive Against Debris dive. In addition to being a dive site within Bonaire National Marine Park, Te Amo Beach is a popular site for food trucks, parties and BBQs. The jetty and the fuel pier are both used frequently by fishermen. Therefore, the beach and dive site were definitely in need of a little love from the mix of local residents and visiting tourists who all wanted to help the environment of Bonaire.
Te Amo Beach is also popular with visiting mother sea turtles. It needs to be monitored regularly during nesting season by volunteers from Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire to prevent baby sea turtles from being disoriented by the lights from Bonaire’s Flamingo Airport during a hatching. Sea turtle nesting season will be beginning soon, so this is all the more reason to make sure that the reef and beach are free from hazards and debris.
Asko Zuidam of Dive Friends Bonaire provided a safety briefing to address what items should be collected and explained that anything with coral growing on it or creatures living inside of it should be left behind. Dr. Sue Willis from Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire also gave an explanation of how to carefully remove fishing line so as not to damage delicate sponges or corals.
After the briefing, the divers entered the water at the beautiful sand beach. Some divers swam over to the Fuel Pier and some divers cleaned around the jetty. When their bags were filled with marine debris, they brought the bags to the surface and handed them over to the Dive Friends crew who were working as shore support. Volunteers checked once again to be sure that no marine creatures had been inadvertently included. Then, everything was counted, tallied for Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, and disposed of responsibly.
Internationally renowned aquatic filmmaker and oceanographic explorer Mr. Fabien Cousteau was a special celebrity guest volunteer at the clean-up dive. He spent some time talking with the team from the STINAPA Junior Rangers about their dive activities and what items of debris that they found.
The debris collected by volunteers definitely reflected the beaches popularity with revelers and fishermen. Over 564 items of marine debris were removed. The most significant items removed were 148 pieces of fishing line and 52 fishing weights. Other items included: 68 items of plastic cutlery, 5 food wrappers, 56 plastic fragments, 8 plastic bags, 30 glass bottles, 9 cans, 10 plastic bottles, 11 pieces of rope, 9 fishing hooks, 2 pairs of underpants and much more.
Discarded fishing line poses a serious threat of entanglement and drowning to endangered sea turtles, as well as other marine life. Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire is targeting the issue with additional “line clean up dives” with tanks supplied by Dive Friends, but it requires constant vigilance around all of the piers of Bonaire.
That evening, all participants and their families were welcomed back for a Pot Luck BBQ and raffle at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis. Dive Friends Bonaire (with help from our sponsors) provided drinks and main courses, while participants supplied side dishes. Hamlet Oasis is also the location of the Debris Free Bonaire plastic collection container, so volunteers learned more about the coastal clean-up initiative targeting marine plastic that washes ashore on Bonaire’s east coast.
Sponsors for the event include: Beachcomber Villas, Bonaire East Coast Diving, Van Den Tweel, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Selibon, La Cantina Restaurant, Freestyle Pop Up Restaurant, Trident Dive,
Ocean Reef ITC Bonaire and DAN World.
The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, July 9th, 2016.
Additional information about the cleanups is available at: http://www.divefriendsbonaire.com/eco-activities/.
All are welcome to join in.
For more information about the Debris Free Bonaire initiative, visit www.debrisfreebonaire.com.
For more information about Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, visit http://www.projectaware.org/project/dive-against-debris.