Volunteers dive Sunday morning for the underwater cleanup of Edmonds Marina

For the ninth consecutive year, a team of volunteer divers dived to the depths below the Edmonds Marina boat anchorage with one big goal in mind – to locate, bring to the surface and make a significant breach in the years of debris accumulated that have fallen, dropped or thrown from boats and docks.

“This year’s team included 18 divers and about twice as many shore helpers,” said group organizer Annie Crawley, an internationally renowned oceanographer, underwater photographer, educator, youth organizer and tireless advocate. environmental health of the oceans. “I believe it’s important to always bring new divers into this effort, and today is no different – ​​we have oldies and a new group of youngsters who have never done this before.”

Started in 2014 as a senior project by then-Meadowdale student Shane Hayes, the underwater cleanups have grown into bi-annual events involving dozens of volunteers. For many, especially younger team members, they provide a powerful learning experience that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Beyond the immediate goal of cleaning up the marina’s underwater environment, Crawley emphasized the long-term goal of raising environmental awareness.

She is particularly passionate about plastics and the damage they cause to ocean systems.

“Every piece of plastic that was ever made is still on earth,” she pointed out. “Plastic does not biodegrade, but it does photodegrade. Light – especially ultraviolet – makes plastic brittle and breaks it into smaller and smaller pieces. It never goes away.

Recent studies have shown how these tiny bits have accumulated in ocean food chains and are now found in many of the foods we eat, threatening human health.

“We used to have this ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality,” Crawley explained. “I hope events like this help make people more aware that this stuff doesn’t just go away.”

Beyond those goals, the bi-annual underwater cleanups by Crawley and his dive team reflect the strong environmental stance of Edmonds Port, which four years ago formally added these events as a key part of its plan. environmental.

“Environmental stewardship is a core value at the Port of Edmonds,” said Port Executive Director Bob McChesney, who was on hand Sunday morning to personally greet Crawley and his team. “We work at the direct interface of the man-made environment and the natural marine environment. It’s easy to address the problems we can see, but not the so easy things we can’t. These young divers, led and mentored by Annie Crawley, share that commitment and are here with us today to spend their time learning and helping to clean up the detritus from the sea floor left by past activities.

“It’s not out of sight, out of mind,” he continued. “You wouldn’t believe what they’re bringing up from the depths; even a bowling ball and maybe everything but the kitchen sink. Without their help and care, all of these unnatural things would remain hidden like an unwanted sarcophagus for marine life. The work of these divers reminds us that Puget Sound is a treasure and a gift to all of us.

Also in attendance were Harbor Commissioners Jim Orvis, David Preston, Angela Harris and Jay Grant, who each personally recognized the dedication and volunteer spirit of the dive team.

By late morning, the team had recovered nearly two dumpsters of debris, containing everything from tools to cell phones to an old bicycle pump.

In his closing remarks to the group, Crawley stressed the importance of spreading the word about stopping the flow of ocean pollution.

“Participating in events like today’s is great for raising your personal awareness, but if we’re going to address this issue in a meaningful way, we need to take the next steps,” she said. “That means writing letters to elected officials and businesses. This means showing up for council meetings and other local government functions, and most importantly, it means going to the place to vote. Even if you’re too young to vote, you can influence the people who do — take photos, flood Instagram, do a school project, tell the story.

Learn more about how you can join the Crawley Dive Team on the Our Oceans and You website.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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