Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Key Dives

Cortney Benson dives in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Kurt Tidd

Written by Cortney Benson – Operations Manager and Marine Conservation Coordinator, Key Dives

Cleanup diving is an integral part of our identity at Key Dives, and it all began with Goal: Clean Seas. When I started working here 4 years ago, the shop owner Mike Goldberg and I wanted to take the shop in a direction of conservation. We quickly became a Blue Star operator and joined the very start of the Goal: Clean Seas program. Thankful to have a grant to do what we loved, we chose to share that excitement with our customers.

A day in the life at Key Dives on a cleanup morning looks like this: Locals and visitors alike arrive at the dive shop in the early morning, and the buzz, the excitement of the day begins. The locals fill in the new visitors with what they are in for while the crew sets up gear. After a short training session led by staff, everyone is equipped with the knowledge of what we can and cannot remove and why we are doing what we are doing. We head out to our first dive site with a full and eager boat. 

We often choose sites we are unfamiliar with, or have not visited in several months to cover as much reef as possible. We guide our customers to trash and let them have a blast cutting and removing line, filling their mesh trash bags, and showing off the weirdest items they found. Our guides handle the heavy lifting, but for the most part these efforts are wholly accomplished by our customers and that makes me very happy to see. The conversation on the ride in is like nothing you typically hear on a dive boat. Everyone has a sense of pride in what they have just accomplished as they admire the tall pile of debris at the stern.

We have now removed over 14,000 lbs of marine debris, and participate in a variety of other conservation efforts including coral outplanting. While marine debris is an ongoing problem, you can truly see the difference our efforts have made. We would like to extend a very big thank you to the Foundation, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the Blue Star team for supporting our efforts, and to every other shop out there, working to leave the ocean a little better than we found it.

Cortney tallies up the total of marine debris that Key Dives has removed from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Kurt Tidd