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WSORC Snorkel Clean-up 27/03/13



Buoyed by the success of our initial WSORC snorkel against debris, on the 27th of March 2014 we donned our masks and fins for a second time and took to the water. The aim was to continue as we began, sweeping across Utila harbor and collecting as much rubbish and waste as possible. After a massive total of 85 pounds was removed on the first snorkel, we had set ourselves an impressive target to match, but we were confident it was possible and set to it with a will.

An important decision had been made after discussing the outcomes of the first snorkel clean up, and glass items were deemed too heavy and too much of a disturbance to remove. Glass bottles in particular had formed the majority of the previous collection, and after only a short time had hindered our efforts to keep collecting. They also appeared to harbor many different forms of encrusting life, from plants and coral polyps to barnacles and worm species, and do not break down and damage the environment in the same way plastics do. Thus we decided it was better to leave them be and to focus on removing the more harmful materials.

Once all preparations were complete the clean-up proceeded exactly as planned. With much needed help from volunteers at the Iguana Research Station we scoured the bay, locating a number of sandy patches amongst the sea grass that contained high concentrations of half-buried rubbish. Fighting against the worsening visibility from unearthing piece after piece of silty trash, we soon had more than we could carry. A windsurf board taken as a flotation aid allowed multiple bags to be loaded and towed behind the group, freeing up more hands and bags to keep up the hard work. Eventually though this too was full and collection had to be called to a halt. Swimming back to dock was no easy feat, laden as we were, but we were soon unloading and sorting through the jumble of unusual items to see what we had found.

Even with the exclusion of glass of any kind, our group still pulled up a whopping 102 pounds (46 kilos) of garbage from just a short stretch of Utila harbor. The majority of the collection was again composed of various plastic items, with drinks bottles, cups and assorted plastic fragments found in great numbers. We were all surprised by some of the other things that turned up however, including a whole electric room fan, a baby monitor, half a blender, a telephone receiver and vinyl LP! This varied assortment of rubbish helps to show what an overall dumping ground the ocean has become, and how pollution from so many sources often ends up in the sea, intentionally or otherwise. 

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