For the eighth year in a row, a team of enthusiastic volunteer divers willingly gave up spending a sunny spring Sunday in the fresh air for a dive into the murky waters of Puget Sound to collect and haul to the surface the plethora of underwater debris that collects beneath the Edmonds Marina boat moorage.
Organized by internationally-known underwater photographer, dive instructor and ocean cleanup advocate “Ocean Annie” Crawley of Edmonds, the effort is just one more reflection of Crawley’s life-long mission to raise awareness of the ocean environment and advocate for its protection.
“The marina cleanup is a team effort by members of Our Ocean and You,” explained Crawley. “We are a group of like-minded enthusiasts united for the health of the ocean and dedicated to raising awareness of how it’s connected to all of us. You don’t need to be a diver to be part of the group — it’s open to everyone — all you need to do is agree to be a voice for the ocean.” (See the Our Ocean and You team sign up page here)
Sunday’s volunteers, all members of Our Ocean and You, included not only divers, but a dedicated crew of folks on dry land who collected the trash as the dive team brought it up, carried it to a staging area located in the Edmonds Marina parking lot, sorted and documented it, and finally dispatched it to appropriate dumpsters — being careful to separate out recyclables (e.g., glass) and potentially hazardous materials (e.g., mercury-containing cell phones).
Now a twice-yearly tradition (cleanups are conducted in spring and fall), the Edmonds Marina cleanup began in 2014 as a Meadowdale High School senior project. Then-graduating senior Shane Hayes, a certified scuba diver, came up with the idea and contacted Crawley, who enthusiastically agreed to be his project coordinator.
“That first effort was such a success and participants enjoyed it so much,” recalled Crawley. “Over the years it just kept growing and now it’s become a community event that helps raise awareness about ocean pollution in our own community.”
Crawley’s mission hit high gear in 2009 after she visited the “great Pacific garbage patch,” an area of ocean where currents converge and cause millions of tons of floating debris (mostly plastics) to collect across an area twice the size of Texas.
“In 2009 I came home from the garbage patch and began spreading the word,” Crawley explained. “At that time not many folks understood about ocean pollution. But that’s changed as more people became aware. Locally we’re really trying to get the ocean into the hearts and minds of everybody in the Edmonds community so they can understand what lies just below the surface, and today’s cleanup is one way we’re doing that.”
And the community is rallying behind the effort, with major sponsorships from Edmonds Underwater Sports and the Port of Edmonds, among others.
“This brings real value to the Port,” remarked Port Commissioner Angela Harris, who was on hand for Sunday’s cleanup. “It’s bringing increased awareness of what’s going on under the surface, the ecological damage this debris can do, and that we need to be careful. Annie has so much passion for this – we’re lucky to be able to partner with her.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel