This past Saturday, April 8th, we gathered a huge group of divers and cleaned up under the South Pier during our quarterly underwater clean-up. We had 105 volunteers remove over 700 Kg of rubbish from the reef. In addition to the numerous dive teams, we had several on-land support teams and the Dive Friends Bonaire crew to help divers in and out of the water as well as sort and count the garbage!
Our crew began bright and early to set everything up at our Dive Inn location. Everything was ready when the volunteers showed up to sign in and hear the briefing. Dive Friends Planning & Logistics Manager Daniel Molenaar carefully instructed the divers not to remove any living creatures from the reef and to leave items behind on which coral was happily growing. He also explained how to correctly remove fishing line without damaging delicate creatures such as sponges. 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.
The dive teams quickly headed into the water and in no time at all the first bags of trash were being sorted and counted. As soon as the diver as snorkels hit the water, it was immediately clear how necessary this clean-up was. The pier has received a lot of garbage in the past year and we made a great effort to remove as much as possible.
Once on the surface, our on-land support teams sorted the trash and every piece was counted for Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program. They also responded quickly if any marine creatures had accidentally been collected and returned them to the reef.
In total, we removed 1003 items from the reef! This included 25 plastic beverage bottles, 35 pieces of plastic dishware and cutlery, 12 ceramic dishes, 14 metal plates, 12 gas bottles, 28 aluminum cans, 30 metal bottle caps, 99 glass beer bottles, 11 glass jars and 76 other glass fragments. We also removed 20 pieces of metal wire and barbed wired along with 278 pieces of fishing line with an estimated distance of 1 Km. Furthermore, we have a lot of people walking around with missing clothing and shoes as we collected 8 pieces of clothing plus 6 underwear, 4 sunglasses, 20 hats and 7 flip-flops. We even found some weird stuff like 2 rakes, a WEB road sign, 2 tarps, a Yamaha boat motor cap and 5 flags! Thanks to all our volunteers, all this waste is now off of the reef and has been disposed of responsibly.
That evening, all volunteers and their families were invited to a potluck BBQ and raffle at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis. Dive Friends Front Desk Assistant Veer Shutte gave a wonderful speech summarizing the collection results and then handed out the raffle prizes. Dive Friends Bonaire 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: Bonaire East Coast Diving, Diver’s Paradise, La Cantina, Ocean Reef, Polar Pro, Caribbean Dive Trading, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Selibon, Bonaire Harbour and Dive Friends Bonaire Retail.
The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, July 8th, 2017. If you won’t be able to attend, join us every first Wednesday of the month for the Dive Against Debris Specialty course.
Additional information about the cleanups is available at: http://www.divefriendsbonaire.com/eco-activities/