“Team Up to Clean Up” is the 2018 slogan! The first Dive Friends Bonaire, in partnership with STINAPA and Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Quarterly Clean-up Dive on Saturday, January 27th had an outstanding turnout of 116 volunteers participating. The clean-up was organized at Front Porch/Cocos Beach. Roughly 475 kg of rubbish was removed from the reef. The divers removed many smaller items this time around as well, with fishing line being by far the most abundant item. STINAPA’s Junior Rangers provided an on-land support team alongside the Dive Friends Bonaire crew, helping divers in and out of the water in addition to the sorting and counting process.
The crew arrived early at Cocos Beach and prepared the tents, tanks, and other provisions despite the wind gusts and intermittent rain showers (we had tents nearly blowing away!). By the time the volunteers arrived at 9:30, the sun was shining a welcoming light on them. They signed in, received their BBQ raffle tickets, and received a free tank of air to set up! Dive Friends Clean-up Captain Caitlin Hale carefully instructed the divers not to remove any living creatures from the reef and to leave items behind upon which coral had begun to encrust. She also explained how to correctly remove fishing line without damaging delicate creatures such as sponges. Discarded fishing line routinely entangles and kills birds, fish, turtles, and small mammals. People are urged to use the bins to dispose of any unwanted fishing line and to reduce the amount of line finding its way into the environment. The post-dive analytics team calculated that divers collectively removed roughly 1 kilometre of fishing line during this clean-up.
Buddy teams went off along the reef, with a choice of heading South or North as there was little current present. The mission became one of divide and conquer! Each buddy team was issued a mesh bag for garbage collection, taking turns as the garbage collector or bag transporter. There was a real sense of comradery underwater, a group of divers with the same mission as ocean ambassadors, having fun while creating a better environment.
Back on shore the full mesh bags were delivered to the sorting station. There the items were tallied and sorted to supply data to Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program. On-land volunteers responded quickly if any marine creatures had accidentally been collected and returned them to the reef. Analyzing the collected trash provides crucial data to help in our fight to make a debris free Bonaire! We’d like to give a special thank-you to Selibon N.V. for providing a large trash container for our use. In total, we removed 1171 items from the reef! 46% of the removed items were plastic, and the most abundant plastic item was fragments. A concerning amount of straws and stirrers were found on this dive site; the small stuff really added up! Other fragments of rubber, cloth, and metal were abundant as well. One fresh tire was lifted off the reef, which the on-land team checked to ensure there was nothing living or coral growing on the tire before deeming it OK. Thanks to all involved, a significant portion of the garbage along the reef has been removed to be disposed of responsibly.
Later that evening at Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis the drink coolers began to empty as volunteers cashed in on their free drink, and the side dish table piled high with tempting treats for all! It was time to celebrate the morning’s efforts. Clean Up Captain Caitlin Hale took to the mic again with assistant DFB crew member Pauline, together announcing the results of the garbage analysis. This was followed by the highly anticipated raffle. Sponsors for the event included: Bonaire Harbour, Bonaire East Coast Diving, Caribbean Dive Trading, FOODIES Bonaire, Mangrove Center Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, The Brewery, La Cantina, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Selibon, Coco Palm Gardens, and Warehouse.
The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, Apil 21st, 2018. 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/