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Aug 26 2015

Los Angeles Harbor Cleanup

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

ODA Volunteer Crew before sailing on our marine debris removal expeditionWhile forced to wait for repairs to Mr. Barker's LegaSea, 14 people showed up on an extremely warm day to do a first for ODA: a cleanup in the Los Angeles Harbor!

Although our boat is undergoing repair work, we were still able to use her as a dive platform.  ODA Dive Team members Jeff Connor, Tom Mullins, Makoto (Mak) Naknishi, and I jumped into the salty brine and swam to an area of the marina rumored to have a zodiac sunk there two years ago.

Pollution That's "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"

The four of us dropped down into the mire, and within seconds I couldn't see anybody.  Visibility was about 2-3 feet.  During our briefing just before the dive, we agreed that if we lost sight of our dive partner we were not to worry.  In such shallow depths, we agreed that we'd continue on our way.  I headed for an area by the main walkway where I've been seeing debris from the surface for years.

ODA Dive Team - Mac, Tom, and Jeff in the water ready to dive on debris.The ODA Divers head to the site

As soon as I got there my mind was boggled by the amount of harmful debris!  Lots of plastic tubing, wine glasses, coffee cups, Styrofoam cups, plastic forks and spoons, sun glasses….but an inordinate amount of if was electrical cables.  Amongst all this plastic there were critters all around: small fish, nudibranchs, tube anemones, sea hares, and scallops!

While I was doing my cleanup thing in the shallows, Tom, Jeff, and Mak were in deeper waters underneath the boats that were sitting idle in their slips.  They pulled up similar debris that I was finding, as well as lawn furniture, a snail trap, tires, a snorkel, and a toilet that an octopus was calling home.  Not for long, as the deck crew let him find his way back to the ocean to find a new-and more natural-place to call home.  

Oodles of Ocean Debris

In all, we removed close to 1,000 pounds of debris!  It was a mess down there, and as soon as you started moving anything there was so much silt covering the bottom that visibility went to zero in a heartbeat. If Moon Unit Zappa had been with us, she would have called it, "GRODY TO THE MAX!"

ODA hauled out a giant pile of ocean debris.ODA volunteers Jim, Hermann, and Marc loading cart full of ocean garbage.

In addition to what we were able to remove, we also saw a new picnic table, a sailboat, some batteries and a very large compressor.  All too big for us to haul out…this time.  But we WILL be back!

Let's Keep Their Home Clean

As I was swimming back to the boat, visibility was getting a lot better and I could see about 10 feet.  Now I could see hundreds of small schooling fish hiding under the shade of the boats and the docks.  Just as I was climbing up the dive ladder a green heron bolted from its perch that was right next to our boat.  Only to fly 15 feet away to a new spot to hunt from.  Julia saw this and took several shots as the bird patiently waited for one of those fish to get near the surface.  In a flash the heron hit the water and came back with a meal. 

Green Heron near the ODA boat.Green heron ready to dive.

This is why the ODA crew is so enthusiastic about cleaning up sites that seem inhospitable, because, if you look close enough, you'll see nature all around you and they need a clean, debris-free place to live.

ODA Volunteer Crew with debris hauled out of Los Angeles Harbor.

In addition to the divers already mentioned, I want to thank the entire volunteer crew for spending a lovely Sunday with us: Lisa Davis, Rex Levi, Jim Lieber, Cheryl and Marc McCarthy, Herman, Christine, Caleb and Frankie Padilla, and last, but not least, Julia Ransom.

Farewell to Our Crew Mate

Julia Ransom volunteerJulia took all these pictures, and I want to thank her for volunteering her skills for the last two years.  She's been a valuable asset to us by getting these great images.  Sadly for us, this was her farewell tour, as she is moving to Maine to help her aging parents.  We'll all miss you Julia!

If you enjoy reading about the positive impact of ODA's work, please consider making a donation right now! We are always ready to dive into a harbor, but can do more with a functional boat. Your donation will help us get back out on the water more quickly!

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