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Marine debris survey, clean-ups and marine park maintenance

DiVo clean up on Padi AWARE day

Many divers will be familiar with the cleanup days organised by PADI’s Project Aware. Human debris and pollutants are a threat to marine life, through entanglement, ingestion of plastics and longer term effects wrought by pollutants. In New South Wales in Australia underwater volunteer groups are on the forefront of developing a protocol to monitor marine debris impact on marine life. SURG has conducted data collation on marine debris, and URG based in Sydney as done research dives investigating the presence of the invasive caulerpa weed in Sydney Harbour, both amongst the coral substrate as well as in moored boats and anchor chains.

If you wonder, why survey garbage, just think. All those bottles and plastic bags, do you think they were blithely thrown into the sea by uncaring beach users and boaters? Yes there can be inconsiderate people, but more often, the garbage comes from stormwater outfalls or other "legit" sources. Years ago when I worked in Hong Kong as a port developing lawyer, I discovered that the government sanctioned garbage dumping in the sea with a mere sand cap cover. Concrete cover was only required for the really poisonous stuff like dredged poison mud from the harbour....which the HK government eventually paid China to dump there. Marine debris surveys enable us to piece together a picture of where the garbage comes from, where the tides push it, what the impact is. Read this piece if you are curious about the science and methodology involved in a recent marine debris survey conducted as part of the September 17th 2011 International Cleanup Day, and Project AWARE's special explanation of what it does with its marine debris survey data.

DiVo recently met Tony Fontes, president of OUCH (Order of the Underwater Coral Heroes), a volunteer group based in Airlie. OUCH does many things, including mapping, survey of sea grasses and giving voice to zoning issues. But the funnest adventures they get up to - by local diver consensus - and also a valuable community contribution, is maintaining the moorings around the no-go zones in the marine park reserves. A bit of search and rescue fun, learning about how this integrates into the Great Barrier Reef's zoning policies and hands-on contribution to the Great Barrier Reef's conservation, how many scuba dive holidays in Australia can combine tourism with dive volunteerism like this? DiVo is working with OUCH to broaden their funding channels in a win-win fun treasure hunt dive  supporting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in its retrieval of sunken zone moorings - check out the August 2012 expedition to the Whitsundays.

Tony Fontes (right), president of OUCH with Mike of Whitsunday Dive Adventures

Toony Fontes, OUCH president

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