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Marine Debris Cleanup Dive | Maui.Net - All Things Maui
Maui Prince Hotel Makena Resort

Michael Elam's Maui Snorkel & Dive Guide

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Oct. 5, 2007 by Michael Elam

Marine Debris Cleanup Dive

"It's a shame that all that fishing line is covering that reef. Somebody should do something!"

I was proud to be part of a group of somebodies that did do something. We removed over 150 pounds of debris; fishing line, hooks, sinkers, weights, lures and other marine debris left on the reef after becoming snagged. Take a close look at the accompanying photos on this page which tell the story better than a thousand words. And we even had an article published about our efforts in The Maui News!

Scuba diving on Maui for the past 5 years or so has given me so much enjoyment that I like to take advantage of opportunities to give back whenever I can. I participated in a marine debris cleanup dive funded by the Maui Reef Fund. This cleanup is a semi-annual event which is coordinated and organized by local dive operator Octopus Reef. And boat operator ProDiver Maui generously donated their boat and crew time for this very good cause.

Many visitors to Maui stop at the Scenic Outlook (aka Papawai Point) on the road to Lahaina. Because the point juts into the water at the western edge of Ma`alaea Bay, a favored humpback whale nursing ground, it is a great whale watching spot. Then there are the breathtaking views of the Kihei/Wailea coastline as well as Haleakala and the islands of Lanai and Kaho`olawe in the distance.

It is also a popular local fishing spot. On most evenings throughout the year you can see cars and trucks parked alongside the road where fishermen have walked down the dirt trails leading to the rocky shoreline below. Consequently the area underwater is literally covered with fishing line, hooks, sinkers, weights, lures and other marine debris left on the reef after becoming snagged.

Responsible fishermen take the time and effort to retrieve their snagged gear, even free-diving to release it if necessary. Unfortunately not every fisherman is responsible.

Not only is this debris a huge underwater eyesore, it can adversely impact marine life. Lost, cut and discarded monofilament fishing line damage and kill coral colonies which grow very slowly, only centimeters per year. The fishing line, swept by ocean surge action, entangles coral heads and cuts in to them. In addition, discarded monofilament fishing line, lead sinkers and hooks pose ingestion and entanglement threats to endangered monk seals, sea turtles, and sea birds.

Figuratively like the World Wide Web so much fishing gear has been left in this location for so long that it is literally like a spider's web, all linked together and embedded in and on the rocks and reef. In some places the coral has literally grown right over it. So removing this debris becomes a challenging trade-off between bringing up as much as you can while simultaneously leaving the nearby marine life as undisturbed as possible.

Our group of seven divers during two dives retrieved over 150 pounds of debris from an area of about 200 square feet. We brought down with us a pair of weighted cloth shopping bags each attached to a lift bag. Once a shopping bag was filled with debris, the lift bag was filled with air and up to the surface it went. Snorkelers waiting at the surface then brought the bag to the boat where it was emptied, dropped back down, and the process repeated.

The State of Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources publishes the following set of tips for collecting entangled fishing line:

  1. Work with a buddy – one untangles, the other coils
  2. Coil line loosely around a stick or bottle to avoid getting yourself entangled.
  3. Do NOT pull on the line. Pulling can harm the coral more.
  4. When done, tie the end of the line so that it will not uncoil.
  5. Cut line in sections if it is severely entangled.
  6. BE CAREFUL OF HOOKS. Cut them off and place in jar.
  7. Overall, be careful to avoid breaking off the coral.

Dive stats:

Location: Scenic Outlook (Papawai Point)

Maximum Depth: 59 feet

Bottom Time: 52 minutes

Visibility: 60-80 feet

Water Temp: 77°

All photos provided courtesy of Rene Umberger.

About the Operators

Octopus Reef offers Guided Life Marine Tours for small groups with very personalized service that is difficult to obtain in a larger group of 6-12 people. They plan and do tours focused on your specific requests for what you would like to see and learn about.

For those planning to do some boat diving while on the island ProDiver Maui is great smaller dive operator departing from the Kihei boat ramp. They take a maximum of 6 certified divers only even though they are USCG certified for up to 16.

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