Close your eyes and imagine your idyllic scuba diving location. Most might envision sandy white beaches, palm trees blowing in the breeze, and a small dive boat anchored offshore in calm turquoise waters – right?
Not necessarily. One of the premier dive locations in the world – Saltstraumen, Norway – is both globally renowned and the antithesis of what many think of as ‘typical.’ Known for its rich undersea life and unimaginably strong tidal currents, Saltsraumen embodies another kind of beauty. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the midnight sun, this is no ordinary scuba dive site.
But, Fredric Ihrsen is no ordinary diver. In honor of Earth Day, coming up on April 22, Project AWARE is honoring the extraordinary work Fredric has undertaken.
A dive instructor of eleven years, Fredric began participating in underwater cleanups when he first started leading group dives years ago in Thailand. Although the excursions occurred just once a year, he immediately became hooked and his interest in ocean conservation began to grow. He continued leading underwater cleanups while working as a dive instructor in the Red Sea, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Norway in 2008 and found his tribe, Saltstraumen Dykkecamp, that he truly became a Dive Against Debris activist.
Diving in the narrow straight fjord is no easy feat. With typical speeds around 26 knots, it is the world’s strongest tidal current. Currents can be so powerful, at times, that there is only a small window during which divers can safely enter and exit the waters. Thus, Saltstraumen dives are limited to a distinct area of just under one square mile, and must be timed perfectly by expert instructors.
Over the last two years, Fredric has been collecting and removing marine debris from the ocean floor in Saltstraumen. With each dive, he fastens a half-litter plastic container to his hip and collects trash as he goes, averaging about two to four pounds of debris removed per dive. The majority of the litter he picks up consists of fish hooks and lines, as Salstraumen is known for its bustling fishing industry. However, with a heavy influx of inexperienced tourists attempting to fish in an unfamiliar location, hooks and lines are easily caught in dense kelp beds and, more often than not, carried off to sea by the area’s strong tides. Fredric and his friends at Saltstraumen Dykkecamp are determined to recover lost fishing hooks from the ocean to be recycled onshore. The group cleaned up and recycled over 1600 pounds last year – 275 by Fredric alone.
Though icy waters and rough underwater conditions make debris removal efforts even more difficult, Fredric and his team do not allow themselves to be discouraged. Rather, they are motivated by the challenge of preserving the beauty of their unique marine environment. In Saltraumen, the currents bring in abundant nutrients, promoting the development of gorgeous undersea gardens alive with color, and richly diverse marine creatures.
Thus, Fredric has made it his mission to tackle the issue of marine debris pollution in order to protect this otherwise flourishing marine ecosystem. His motto: “They fish, we clean.”
Thank you, Fredric, for your participation in Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program and dedication to preserving our ocean’s health. To participate in an Dive Against Debris survey, check out our Dive Against Debris Map and Action Zone to find local actions in your community.