Divers treasure environment

2020-02-25 06:03
Divers take the responsibility to keep coastal waters clean seriously.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

Divers take the responsibility to keep coastal waters clean seriously.PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

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A shared love for the ocean and conservation has mobilised several organisations to collaborate on regular underwater clean-up operations for the protection of marine life.

On Valentine’s Day, Trail Freedivers and #SeaTheBiggerPicture Ocean Initiative teamed up to show the ocean some love by cleaning Simon’s Town waters.

Sharon Lee Martin, a freediver for about eight years and the founder of the Trail Freedivers initiative, says: “There’s a general rise in awareness, globally, and I’ve seen it grow in the past few years.”

She explains how she got involved.

“I started Trail Freedivers about six years ago, selfishly, because I needed some dive buddies.

“At first there were 100 or so members. Then even more people joined. At the end of 2017, I wanted to do something cool for the group. I thought of a treasure hunt, placing items in different areas but I didn’t want to put plastic items in the ocean,” she explains.

That is when she had the idea of hosting a trash hunt and so the organisation joined the community of people who have been cleaning the coastlines for years.

Spending so much time in the water, the divers continually grow their knowledge of marine life to better help save the environment and ecosystems.

“We mainly dive in no-take marine protected areas. But I have seen hand fishing, spearfishing and more,” she explains.

Marine protected areas, she says, tend to be cleaner than beaches frequented by sunbathers.

Hout Bay Harbour and Royal Cape Yacht Club – with its murky waters and the heaps of rubbish accumulated on the ocean floor – are some of the toughest dives she’s ever done.

She says many curious things have been found during these tougher dives.

“My friend found a welding helmet, a 24-case of still sealed beers and there are always lots of clothes.”

She adds that fishing gut wire, which is found frequently, poses a danger to divers and sea life.

Identifying the need for a trash-collecting device that wouldn’t weigh down divers during clean-ups, Sharon reached out to a friend she had made in the diving community.

“It’s been amazing to meet like-minded people through the clean-ups,” she says.

“Friends at Orca Industries (a Claremont-based company offering diving and hiking equipment) made us these floaty bins. It seems to be a very original design.

“We chose a brightly coloured, mesh material so that sand and small animals can fall through, back into the water. It makes it safer for divers.”

The colour of the bins notches up the safety factor. The eye-catching markers alert boats that there are divers in the water.

This is especially helpful during clean-ups in the harbour.

Clean-up events are held regularly and members of the public are encouraged to join in.

  • Follow the Trail Freedivers on Facebook to keep up with events and conservation efforts.

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