On Saturday, January 11, 2014, volunteer divers collected their free tanks from Dive Friends Bonaire @ Yellow Submarine and headed over to Karel’s Piers, a popular Bonaire nightspot. They weren’t looking for a party, but they were there to clean up afterwards – underwater. It was a beautiful sunny day with flat, calm conditions perfect for diving and the 122 volunteers were all very enthusiastic.
Karel’s Beach Bar is a very popular restaurant and night club located on a pier that extends into the beautiful blue Caribbean. Every year, a large volume of beverage bottles and cups are blown overboard. This site is also the subject of some controversy. There are plans in place to construct an additional recreational pier that has many island residents objecting to additional construction inside of the Bonaire Marine Park.
Asko Zuidam of Dive Friends Bonaire provided a safety briefing to address what items should be collected and explained that anything with coral growing on it or creatures living inside of it should be left behind. He also gave an explanation of how to carefully remove fishing line so as not to damage delicate sponges or corals. He dedicated the dive to the recently deceased Albert Bianculli, a long-time resident of Bonaire and frequent volunteer at the clean-up dives.
After the briefing, the divers entered the water next to the pier. When their bags were filled with marine debris, they brought the bags to the surface and handed them over to the Dive Friends crew who were working as shore support. Volunteers checked once again to be sure that no marine creatures had been inadvertently included. Then, everything was counted, tallied for Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, and disposed of responsibly.
The debris collected by volunteers definitely reflected that the clean-up took place around a popular bar. Volunteers collected 796 glass beverage bottles, 83 cans, 92 bottle caps, 304 plastic cups, 877 glass fragments, 66 pieces of fishing line, 16 items of clothing, 10 towels, 208 plastic fragments, 10 shoes and much more. A total of 2,771 items were removed from the marine environment.
That evening, all participants and their families were welcomed back for a Pot Luck BBQ and raffle at the recently remodeled Dive Friends Bonaire @ Hamlet Oasis. Dive Friends Bonaire (with help from sponsors) provided drinks and main courses, while participants supplied side dishes. In keeping with the spirit of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” Dive Friends Bonaire does not use disposable plates and cutlery, so the instructors and dive masters also spent a lot of extra time cleaning up after the clean-up.
Sponsors for the event include: Deep Blue Gear, Ouray, Selibon, Bonaire Food Group, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, Reef Safe Suncare, Body Glove, Native Outfitters, Reef and Tusa.
The next quarterly Dive Friends Bonaire underwater cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, April 19th, 2014.
Additional information about the cleanups is available at: http://www.dive-friends-bonaire.com/activities.html#cleanups . All are welcome to join in.
For more information about the moment against the re-zoning of the Bonaire Marine Park, visit http://savebonairemarinepark.org.