ODA shifts from the glamorous to the deadly
On Saturday night, August 11th, Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) attended the 23rd anniversary of the Waterman's Ball, an event sponsored by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA). It was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA.
This event is designed to raise funds for several nonprofit organizations doing significant work to keep the oceans clean and healthy. ODA received the honor of being selected as a beneficiary for the third year in a row!
I attended the banquet with Kim McCoy; she is the Executive Director of One World One Ocean and also member of ODA's Board of Advisors. We were invited to attend a ceremony before the banquet where Jean-Michel Cousteau was given SIMA's "Environmentalist of the Year" award. Kim and I had the pleasure of talking with Roxanne and Dan Stetson there. Dan is the president of the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, and on our Board of Advisors as well.
After the ceremony we moved to the silent auction area where we met many old and new friends. We caught up with Garry Brown, President of Orange County Coast Keepers...who is also on ODA's Board of Directors. We then had a chance to talk with Beto Bedolfe, a long-time supporter of our work.
It was an honor to talk with Paul Naude (SIMA president) and Sean Smith (SIMA Executive Director), and thank them for making ODA one of the 20 honorees of this event. It was a great pleasure to meet NBA legend Bill Walton (professional basketball player and announcer). He was at the event because he loves the oceans, and he expressed great interest in the work ODA does.
From there we moved into the dining area as more awards were handed out and some big-ticket items were auctioned off. I had the pleasure of sitting next to portrait artist Letty Nowak. To show her support of SIMA's efforts to raise money for ocean conservation, Ms Nowak donated her creation of a custom painting for highest bidder of this auction item. Her offer went for $15,000!
It was a great night for SIMA, and this was a watershed moment for them: since their inception they have now raised over $6 million dollars to support a variety of worthy organizations. We are very grateful that they include ODA as one of the select few!
Back to Work
Early the next morning, Sunday, Jim and I met a crew of divers at the ODA boat the Clearwater to head out to see if we could remove more traps and line from the LA Harbor lighthouse area. As we rounded the lighthouse and headed to the site, the temperature felt like it dropped at least 10 degrees. What a welcome relief!
This time we had the pleasure of having three GUE-trained (Global Underwater Explorers) divers with us: Rick Guerin, Lori Thanos, and David Watson. ODA "regulars" Al Laubenstein and John Krieger were diving as well.
We dropped them off in 62 feet of water. There was no current at the surface and conditions looked great. They headed down in 2 separate teams at 9:20am. Both teams came up at pretty much the same time, about 200 feet from our boat; one north and the other south. So, they covered a wide area, but they didn't find much, just a couple of pieces of trap remnants. Visibility was terrible at the bottom—no more than 5 feet.
So, after 3 months of working this site, we are confident that we've done all we can to clean this area of deadly debris. One section of our "oceanic neighborhood" is now done, but there remains much more to do in our Backyard Cleanup Campaign.
Next, we dropped the dive team off at the sunken wreck of the Olympic for a fun reconnaissance dive. We dropped the anchor close to the wreck, and the team headed down 100 feet to the bottom. Turns out visibility here was much better, about 15-20 feet. They had a nice dive, and Rick, Lori and David found a large amount of gill net bundled up in a ball on the stern of the wreck. This must be the net that was reported to us 3 weeks ago. We didn't find it on August 3rd, but now we know exactly where it is and will go back another time (with fresh air tanks) to retrieve it.
The most remarkable thing about this dive on the Olympic is that there are now lots of big fish in and around it, calling it home. That was not the case when we first started diving there back in 2007. We have removed well over a thousand pounds of nets and traps at this one location over the years, and the fish are coming back shows how meaningful and impactful our work is.
Witnessing that kind of tangible positive change—seeing how our defense of ocean life is making a difference for these marine animals—is what makes all of our blood, sweat, and tears worthwhile.
It was nice meeting and visiting with everyone at the SIMA event. ODA thanks SIMA, and all of our volunteers and supporters, for helping us to defend the oceans. We will continue to work as hard and as often as we can to make damaged, debris-filled areas safe for sea life.
Please consider making a donation to help us continue our important work!