The Ocean Defenders

Heather McElhatton

Part of A Beautiful World

Ghost Traps

The Ocean Defenders Alliance is a group of California-based environmental activists who clean up the sea floor, one section at a time. Composed of a skilled and dedicated group of volunteers, this group works tirelessly to improve ocean health by removing debris, pollution and 'ghost traps' left in the ocean. Ghost traps refers to the massive amounts of old fishing gear, nets, ropes and lobster traps that get tossed overboard and never taken back out. These hazardous objects remain in the water and continue to net and trap unsuspecting marine life, which in turn attracts more marine life and creates a fatal cycle. Southern California Environmental Reporter Jed Kim goes out on a salvage mission with the ODA crew to document what a day at sea is like.

The Dive and Haul Process

Once the divers locate a deposit of marine debris, they set about dragging up each piece of debris by hand, via submersible or with an inflatable dive balloon. After reaching the target area, ODA divers "buddy up," perform a series of safety checks, and coordinate their dive plans before entering the water. Once at the underwater site, divers assess the situation and carefully work to free living animals from the traps, nets, etc. Dead animals are also released into the ocean because they serve as food for other marine life.

After this liberation process, the divers attach a float bag to the debris, which gently lifts the mass of man-made waste to the surface. When the boat crew sees the float bag emerge on the surface, and the divers are safely aboard, the vessel is repositioned and the deadly garbage hauled onto the deck. Once everyone is back on the boat, ODA performs an initial sorting of the debris. They recycle as much of the debris as possible, and ensure proper disposal of the rest. ODA estimates they have removed over 50 tons of debris from the ocean floor.

LINKS: ODA Website
ODA Articles
Video with "Her Deepness" Sylivia Earle

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