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Underwater Mapping Project Fights Ocean Trash

Dive Master Candidates use Training to Make Impact Against Marine Debris

Rich Hopkins
Community Spotlights

Several years ago, dive instructor Rich Hopkins witnessed something that has stuck with him to this day. While diving in Woahink Lake in Oregon, United States, he became startled by a large object that was strikingly out-of-place in the underwater environment: a large household recliner chair that had been dumped by a local community member. Every time he dived that site, the sight of the submerged recliner irritated him to no end. He had no idea how to get it out of the lake, or if he did, what to do with it. Over time, he noticed more and more trash in his beloved lake. He resolved to take action.

Recently, Rich was leading a small group of student Dive Master Candidates (DMCs) through a series of scuba training activities, and an idea sparked. As part of the students’ training, they were required to do an underwater dive site mapping project to document the lake landscape, underwater features, locations and any stationary objects. Rich saw the perfect opportunity to use his students’ dive mapping project for good – he tasked them with mapping Woahink Lake’s natural underwater features and any large marine debris items in the area. His students couldn’t be more thrilled to utilize their training assignment to create a positive impact for their local dive site.

Collaborating with his dive center staff and colleagues at Eugene Skin Divers Supply, Rich organized a community event and Dive Against Debris™ survey to tackle 16 of the most challenging marine debris items in his local lake – including the recliner chair! Thanks to the exceptional skills of Rich’s student DMCs and the accurate and elaborate underwater mapping provided, the group of volunteers was able to prepare necessary equipment and secure properly trained dive leaders to help prioritize removal of debris items with logistics, visibility and safety in mind. With the help of 24 divers and 7 onshore supporting volunteers, Rich and his DMCs removed 637 debris items totalling 3,195 pounds!

The results of Rich and his volunteer group’s effort are astounding. With a little help from the local community and some advance planning through his DMCs mapping project, he was able to tackle even the toughest marine debris.

Rich shares, “I encourage any scuba instructor to find ways to implement Project AWARE activities into their classes, because it can and will make a difference. Remember, even the smallest effort can have a big impact.”

To learn more about how you too can take action against ocean trash, check out Dive Against Debris.


Photo courtesy: Davis Harte

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