Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Sail Fish Scuba

Sail Fish Scuba volunteers posing in front of the marine debris they removed on their latest Goal: Clean Seas dive. They successfully removed over 1,500 pounds of marine debris from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Maddie Cholnoky/National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Written by: Thomas Simmons of Sail Fish Scuba

I’m not sure exactly what we expected when we first signed up for the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys program. The obvious things, of course: a sense of accomplishment and a general feeling of having helped to protect an important natural resource. But the reality has had a much greater impact than what we anticipated.

On one of our first reef clean-up tours, we returned with three jettisoned anchors and some lengths of line. It felt good; it felt meaningful. However, as we continued our clean-up efforts, we discovered some more astounding and disturbing finds: a patio table, for one. Banquet seats from a pleasure craft, for another. These are ridiculous things to find in the ocean. The result of careless and unthinking actions.

As we continue our participation in this critical program, we are finding that each expedition returns with nearly as much “reef garbage” as our relatively small boat can carry. Abandoned anchors so plentiful it looks like a yard sale. Ghost lobster traps are more common than you might expect, and cast-off lines are found encircling hard and soft corals, causing daily damage. (These must be carefully cut away with sharp shears so they can be removed without further damage to the reef.)

Ultimately, the feeling is more than simply one of having done something nice. It is more like the feeling of cleaning up a friend’s house, a friend who is sick and cannot look after himself. This is our ocean; we swim in it most days of the week. And there is an intense pleasure that comes from helping to keep it preserved and protected for the marine life that lives there, and for future generations of people to visit.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Community Stewardship Coordinator Maddie Cholnoky, who joined Sail Fish Scuba on their latest Goal: Clean Seas dive in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Sail Fish Scuba