Coinciding with the start of the global AWARE Week celebrations, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICC), September 15, saw scuba divers and dive leaders around the world join hundreds of thousands of volunteers coming together to clean up our beaches and waterways.
As a long-term partner of the Ocean Conservancy and founding member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, Project AWARE shares the data from Dive Against Debris® surveys conducted during the World Cleanup Day celebrations, providing an accurate and quantitative perspective to an issue that is often out of sight, out of mind. As divers are the only ones with the skills needed to remove underwater marine debris, it’s important that we share Dive Against Debris data through our strategic partnerships and alliances in order to work towards meaningful solutions at local, national and international levels. Whilst the ICC typically yields land data, Dive Against Debris data adds the underwater story and shines a light on AWARE leaders around the world.
Jack Fishman, Project AWARE’s Community Conservation Officer, zooms in on Curaçao to share inspiring local community actions led in support of the global AWARE Week and World Cleanup Day celebrations.
“There is power in numbers - The community in Curaçao proved anything is possible when you come together. That was the mindset of Curaçao’s Dive Task Force and Curaçao’s Hospitality and Tourism Association (CHATA) Dive Task Force when bringing together more than 3,000 people this September for World Clean Up Day and AWARE Week. Their mission: ensure their local environment remains pristine. Their teamwork for World Clean Up Day led to the successful removal of over 900,000 Kilograms of rubbish from land and sea.
This wasn’t the first successful campaign Curaçao has launched in support of keeping the island clean. In the community’s inaugural event, some 6 years ago, volunteers collected 498,000 Kilos of rubbish with the support of more than a thousand community members. This year, Curaçao more than doubled the effort, with the collaboration and assistance of heavy loaders and construction vehicles from the Curaçao Road Company. Local residents of all ages flocked to the coasts to aid in underwater debris removal efforts and beach cleanups.
Beneath the waves, more than 140 divers across more than 18 dive centers and establishments joined together to remove underwater debris, each following Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris survey protocol, tools, and resources.
The team of dive volunteers reported their findings to Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris global data set to increase knowledge and understanding of key local marine debris issues that affect the coral reefs and coastal waters of Curaçao. For example, thousands of meters of fishing line were collected. Whilst it is important to understand that fishing practices can be a source of marine debris, it is equally important to collaborate with fishermen to work towards solutions. Identifying the source of marine debris through data collection and analyses help paint a bigger picture of the regulations and action needed on land to prevent their further accumulation in the ocean. The diving community in Curaçao has adopted over 12 individual dive sites to continue the fight against marine debris year-round when the World Cleanup Day celebrations are over.
Participants united in recognizing that we are all part of the problem and therefore we must all be part of the solution. This World Clean Up Day was no different. Residents joined forces above and below water to take responsibility and act for change. Conservation actions for a clean ocean are not slowing down anytime soon on Curaçao. Dive centers in the Dive Task Force are committed to consistently offer SCUBA training to conduct regular Dive Against Debris surveys.
Curaçao’s World Clean Up Day and AWARE Week celebrations are part of an ongoing commitment to training Dive Against Debris volunteers and conducting conservation actions year-round so divers and ocean enthusiasts are empowered to take action, big and small, in their local community. The dedicated community actively recognizes the critical need to stop the Ugly Journey of our Trash. We look forward to hearing more from Curaçao and joining them on future missions to keep the island pristine.”
Initiatives like International Coastal Cleanup Day and Dive Against Debris are contributing to growing the global movement for Trash Free Seas year on year. In 2018, Dive Against Debris reached a milestone - #OneMillionLess pieces of trash in the ocean. Your actions during AWARE Week, 15-23 September, and year-round for a clean ocean go towards achieving our collective goal of collecting the next million by end of 2020. Make your dives count and Dive Against Debris to contribute data critical to influencing and informing policy change. Act locally, think globally.