KAILUA-KONA — Less than half an hour after divers leapt into the water at Honokohau Harbor, the designated drop zone was covered with yards of hose and fishing line, stacks of tires and even the odd carpet.
And there was still plenty of work to be done.
“Just seeing how within 20 minutes we’ve pulled up so much stuff just from here, just goes to show how much is in the ocean that we don’t even realize,” said Kelly Tucker after unloading a wheelbarrow of rubbish onto a tarp. “It’s important to do cleanups and really important to minimize in the first place.”
Saturday’s Honokohau Harbor Underwater Clean Up, organized by Jack’s Diving Locker and Ocean Defenders Alliance, brought out about two dozen people to clean up the harbor floor and pull rubbish up from the deep. In total, Chrissy Bogdanovitch of Jack’s Diving Locker estimated they cleaned up 2 tons of trash — including 45 tires, a bicycle, vacuum and hair dryer.
They were also assisted by individuals from Surfrider Foundation, Sea Paradise, Kona Diving Co. and Kona Honu Divers.
Ocean Defenders Alliance, based in California, focuses on “working for a debris-free sea,” said president and founder Kurt Lieber.
“Humans are responsible for putting 8 million tons of plastic in water every year,” Lieber said. “Eight million tons. I mean, it’s staggering to me how much is going in.”
The goal of the organization is to pull anything man-made out of the sea, particularly commercial fishing equipment and plastics.
Bogdanovitch said they’ve been partnering with Ocean Defenders Alliance since December with previous cleanups using chartered dive boats and focusing on marine debris. Saturday’s event marked the first community cleanup at the harbor beneath the boats, she said.
Among those diving at the harbor was Igor Takahashi, visiting from Dublin, Ireland, who learned about the event through a friend he’s visiting and thought it would be a good opportunity to socialize and “do something good for the ocean.”
A relatively new diver, Takahashi said many people aren’t aware just how much rubbish ends up in the ocean.
“So I think it’s good for, once in a while, just do something good,” he said.
More than just an opportunity to clean up the place, it was also a chance to dive somewhere out of the ordinary.
“It’s kind of exciting to dive in the harbor,” said Bogdanovitch. “There’s a lot of really neat creatures that live in the harbor and call this their home.”
That includes invertebrates not commonly seen in other places, the green lionfish, octopi and sea turtles.
“This is a very cool experience,” she said, “because there’s so many cool things down there to see but also to clean up.”
Lieber referenced the change in environment the harbor offers compared to more traditional dive sites.
“It’s not something that’s on people’s bucket list, but there are unusual critters in here,” he said.
Others at the event also found it a good opportunity to give back, like Michele Longley, who came with her son Honu.
“We surf; our life is the ocean, so you gotta keep it clean,” she said.
Longley also mentioned the awareness the event can bring to other harbor users.
That includes letting them see how much rubbish ends up in the water.
Lieber said the harbor management has “been great” in their support of the cleanup effort and commended the efforts of others who have donated or contributed in some way.
“So it’s nice that everybody’s coming together and pitching in financially as well as volunteer-wise to get rid of this stuff.”
And while the task might appear daunting, Lieber said the old saying remains true: think globally, act locally.
“We put so much stuff out there, it’s like this existential threat that is so big that you can’t wrap your head around it,” he said. “But we can wrap our head around cleaning up a harbor or cleaning up a reef.”