Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Florida Keys Dive Center

Photo credit: Florida Keys Dive Center

Written by: Seanna Knight and Nate Sterns of Florida Keys Dive Center

Our names are Seanna Knight and Nate Sterns, and we are the Conservation Coordinators at Florida Keys Dive Center! We both share a love for the ocean, diving, and the community associated with our daily lives both in and out of the water. The only thing that we love more than that is doing our best to keep all of those things healthy and safe! With that, we work with organizations such as the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, PADI Aware, our fellow staff members, and other divers to run debris dive trips. We do our best to clean up the seafloor and remove harmful trash and waste materials in high-risk locations. In order to run these awesome programs though, it requires a whole bunch of planning and coordination from a large amount of dedicated people. As unfortunate as it is, it is not as easy to play Poseidon’s custodian as one may think…

Without going into terrible detail, our job is to make sure that we are doing the right thing, the right way. One important aspect of our position is that we make sure that divers working with us are trained properly in how to use equipment and advanced debris removal techniques. We also ensure that our team has proper permits and permission to remove certain debris, as well as making sure that our divers help spread awareness that what they are doing is important. Even beyond that we encourage others to help out in their own ways!

Now as much as we love making all the parts of the puzzle come together, we cannot help ourselves but to get hands-on as well. Once we get a boat loaded with a crew of “custodians”, we hop on board as well and go out to remove as much trash underwater as safely as possible. Typically we perform deeper dives than usual, routinely finding most debris around 80 to 90 feet at depth, bringing up things from derelict fishing traps to hundreds and hundreds of feet of monofilament line. After a lengthy ascent, the next challenge we face is bringing all of our haul on board the boat. This can prove to be more difficult than one may realize, as this requires a lot of communication between the crew, divers, and the captain to make sure all of the divers and cumbersome equipment/trash make it back on board safely. This can be especially challenging when in the presence of waves and strong currents. 

When the boat returns to the dock, it is then time for all of our participants to sort through everything we have removed from the ocean. This is extremely important because the data we collect is then reported and used to get a better understanding of the how/where/when did all of this trash appear, and how it is impacting the marine environment. Pictures and videos of debris being removed as well as group photos are also incredibly important.  These are taken so that they can be shared with others to showcase the pressing issue of marine debris in the Florida Keys. 

Florida Keys Dive Center allows divers like us to go out and do good and have it resonate with others in a meaningful way, and we help make sure that everything runs smoothly. Without the Foundation, the Sanctuary, and other ocean ambassadors, we would not be able to have such an impactful position for the environment.