Who Removes Trash From Our Oceans? Divers of Course!

Ian Somerhalder Foundation

It's no secret that the best way to keep trash out of our oceans is to ensure its proper disposal. Even so, trash continues to end up in our waterways forming landfills like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For decades, individual divers and local dive clubs have made it a priority to remove any debris found in lakes and oceans using debris collection bags, an item that has become part of the standard equipment for dives. However, dive operators frequently prefer to steer divers away from areas where debris is collected, considering it to be a bad advertisement. The diversion proves to be a difficult challenge when trying to organize dives, which provides stunning underwater views and the opportunity to remove debris.

The seriousness of marine debris has slowly been gaining the attention of marine policy makers and the dive community. One such organization, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), created Project AWARE in 1989 to help educate divers about the current issues and encourage increased participation in underwater conservation. However, there remained a serious lack of comprehensive data about the marine debris being found and removed. Project AWARE realized that divers, if mobilized and organized, would be able to provide the necessary data about underwater debris to help create a prevention plan. The first step came in 1993, through the organization of a yearly international cleanup event for divers. The event allowed for the beginning of data collection and reporting, a growing awareness of the numbers of like-minded divers around the world, and greater connections within the dive community.

Recently, on World Oceans Day 2011, Project AWARE unveiled their focused movement of divers by combining local efforts around the world. This movement was called Dive Against Debris, and is now a year-round debris removal and data collection effort to help reduce the devastating impacts of marine debris during each dive. Every collection process provides AWARE divers with tools and resources--including online information reporting systems--to help protect and gather key data about the state of our oceans. Divers around the world now have access to information about how to specifically organize and promote dives to remove debris and ways to report results; it allows divers make each dive a meaningful data collection event. Through promotion of these events, more dive operators from around the world are drawn to participate. Whereas divers were once steered away from areas where debris had collected, it is now a prime destination under the Dive Against Debris banner.

Divers no longer just remove trash; they are on a mission to help change waste management policies. Each dive helps collect underwater data that gives a true picture of marine debris issues. Currently in over 180 countries, the AWARE dive community is reporting all the underwater debris being found and removed. Divers are not only contributing to ocean conservation, they are helping to connect what is done underwater with shaping ocean policy changes. They are proud ‘protecting our oceans--one dive at a time.'


Additional links and resources:
Project AWARE website
Project AWARE Infographic: The Ugly Journey Of Our Trash

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Reef photos from Baobab dive site, Indian Ocean by Lorelei

-Written by Lorelei O.