Saturday morning walkers along the Edmonds Marina could hardly miss the activity as a small army of scuba divers hauled load after load of underwater trash out of the water and onto the dock. Ranging from furniture to boat hardware, tools and even a bowling ball, it was all part of Meadowdale High School student Shane Hayes’ senior project to clean up underwater trash at the marina.
When considering what he’d do for his senior project, Hayes, a certified scuba diver, had one big requirement: it had to be under water.
“No one had ever done an underwater senior project before, so I wasn’t too sure where to start,” he said. But with a little help from Internet search engines, he found Project Aware, a growing movement of scuba divers committed to taking positive action to protect the ocean environment every time they dive.
With information from Project Aware and help from his school advisors and staff at the Edmonds Underwater Sports dive shop, Hayes next contacted internationally-known underwater photographer, dive instructor and ocean cleanup advocate, Edmonds-based “Ocean Annie” Crawley. She enthusiastically agreed to be his project coordinator, and Hayes’ project went into high gear.
“Marine debris is my cause,” said Crawley, “I was thrilled to find a young person who shares my passion for ocean cleanup.”
“Where’s there’s people, there’s trash,” she said. “Divers tend to be proactive about this, and regularly pick up any trash they find at popular dive locations like Edmonds Underwater Park on Brackett’s Landing. But with places like the marina off limits to diving, the trash really builds up. So we saw the marina as the perfect place to conduct a cleanup project.”
In preparation for Saturday’s event, Crawley took a reconnaissance dive in the marina last week and found exactly what she expected: mountains of underwater garbage ranging from cups, cans and bottles to tangled fishing lines to hoses, tools and boat hardware. She even found plastic chairs!
“Plastic is the worst,” she said, “and I’m particularly passionate about keeping it out of ocean. Even metal will eventually rust away, but plastic lasts for 1,000 years or more.”
Hayes and Crawley put out the word in the local dive community, and on Saturday morning they were joined by more than a dozen other divers ready to pitch in and dive against debris.
“Some marine creatures like octopus make their home in discarded materials, and we were careful to be on the lookout for these and leave them undisturbed,” said Hayes.
Concentrating on the area between Edmonds Marina’s V dock and the fishing pier access walkway, Hayes’ cleanup team amassed an impressive collection of underwater junk. With each emerging diver, the pile of debris grew in size and diversity. In addition to expected items like bottles, cans, pieces of hosing and fishing gear, the divers found several surprises.
“Since we were inside the marina we might have anticipated all the cell phones,” said Hayes. “But we’re still scratching our heads over the bowling ball!”
But unfortunately, it’s only a dent in the trove of garbage that lies under the Edmonds marina.
“There’s so much more to be done here,” said Crawley. She and Hayes want to make this a twice-yearly event, and are working with the marina administration to set it up.
“This has been the best senior project I could have imagined,” said Hayes. “And I’m especially proud to have started something that will go on into the future.”
Editor’s note: In addition to her more far-flung pursuits, “Ocean Annie” Crawley is director of Edmonds’ own Sunset Bay Beach Camp, where she oversees a first-rate summer youth camp, and teaches her own scuba classes. My Edmonds News covered last year’s camp ribbon cutting here.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel