2004 has ended with ODA riding high in the captain's chair, and marks our first year as a non-profit organization. We made our first official dive on May 29th, and during the rest of the year ODA has had great success in removing a significant amount of derelict commercial fishing gear and garbage from our coastal waters. Here's the breakdown for 2004:
• 14 abandoned lobster traps & 1 crab trap
• Several trap remnants (broken pieces of traps)
• 30 Trap weight bars (approx. 20 lbs. Each)
• 2,300 feet of trap lines (approx.)
• 400 lbs of misc. debris and trash (approx.)
So we are well on our way to reducing the impact all this abandoned commercial fishing gear has on the beautiful reefs that are along our coastline. Moreover, we've been able to reach out to the public and educate young and old about the issues and our work.
I have met many people along the way who support our efforts and have gone the extra mile by volunteering for our crew and contributing financially or donating good and services, and I want to thank several of the people who have done so much to make ODA successful.
First of all, Captain Paul Watson and his wife Allison. They have shown me what it is like to struggle for something you believe in, saving the oceans. Both of them continue to amaze me with their tenacity and devotion to the cause. In addition to giving ODA a start with the donation of ODA's main boat, Paul & Allison and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have contributed funds we need to purchase fuel, equipment and make repairs.
Jim Lieber has put in an enormous amount of time and money. He has put up with his older brother for a long time and still helps out on the boat as first mate whenever called upon.
Fellow Sea Shepherd volunteer, Scott Sheckman, has stepped up to the plate this Fall to be ODA's acting Executive Director. He has done an outstanding job so far and is making the website look official and professional. He has also gone diving with ODA on several occasions. He and I are determined to make a difference for the underwater denizens of Southern California and make ODA a success.
Tom and Kerry Weisel have been extremely generous financial donors as well as my favorite dive buddies. They even listen to me gripe about all the work this project has turned out to be. They haven't refused ONE of my calls yet! True friends indeed. Tom and Kerry participated on ODA's very first expedition in May 2004.
Carol and Blake Storie have donated time and money to ODA for several years and will get wet with us when they have a chance. The Stories were also on ODA's first expedition this year.
John Milligan continues to devote a ton of hours helping me deal with all the details of keeping the boat sea-worthy as well as solving complex computer issues.
Cudos to Haig Yacobian for creating our GREAT logo. He just sat down and listened to me talk about our goals, and look what he came up with!
ODA had several fantastic people volunteer to dive with us. Chris Bell has turned out to be not only enthusiastic, but extremely knowledgeable about scuba diving skills. He is our dive instructor extraordinaire and is willing to keep our dives safe. He has also brought along one of his dive buddies, Erik Burrows. Erik loves to dive, and has put up with us damaging his dry suit with these rusty old traps. Conservationist/diver Rick Stevens has also been on several of our expeditions.
Our newest diver/crewmember is a helicopter pilot, Chris Aultman. He and I are working on a video about the damage caused by the pollution that runs into the ocean via the rivers. He has already taken me up in a helicopter and opened my eyes to the vastness of the whole L.A. and Orange County watershed.
Other notables include:
•Lisa Davis has helped us out numerous times, and we all enjoy her love of nature.
•Will Cunningham was a great help with getting the engine running properly earlier in the year. He solved an important engine/fuel mystery.
•Carla Robinson of Sea Shepherd for all her advice and help with all the administrative duties that go along with running a non-profit.
•Dan Wu for volunteering to keep our financial books in order.
•Pete Iden for doing our taxes every year, and doling out tax advice.
If I missed anyone reading this, please know I appreciate all your time, effort, and support.
Lastly, I want to thank my mother, Jerol Kennedy, for all her love and support throughout my life. She instilled in me a fascination for the oceans and the desire to fight for the right of all of Earth's beings to live in peace.
I can't wait to see what the new year brings to ODA. I look forward to meeting more people, doing more outreach, seeing new critters and most of all removing all the junk that inhibits our reefs from being the vibrant ecosystems they once were. In my 25 years of diving here, I've seen changes that chill me to the bone: Most of the kelp is gone, and with it millions of animals that used it to survive. I can only hope that by removing this derelict commercial fishing gear and giving more lobsters and marine wildlife a chance to live free, we will see a brighter future for our beloved coastal waters.
If you love the ocean and want to help make the California coast a better place for marine animals to live and prosper, I encourage you to donate generously to ODA and check out our "wish list" to help us move forward with this project in 2005. No other group is doing what ODA does in the region:
Cleaning up the ocean floor - one net, one line, one trap at a time!
Thank You All!!
Founder & President
Ocean Defenders Alliance