Volunteers take plunge Sunday morning for Edmonds Marina underwater cleanup

For the ninth year in a row, a team of volunteer divers took to the depths under the Edmonds Marina boat moorage with a big goal in mind – locate, bring to the surface, and make a significant dent in the years of accumulated debris that fell, dropped, or was tossed from boats and docks.

“This year’s team comprised 18 divers and about twice as many shore support helpers,” said group organizer Annie Crawley, internationally known oceanographer, underwater photographer, educator, youth organizer, and tireless advocate for the oceans’ environmental health.  “I believe it’s important to always be bringing new divers into this effort, and today is no different – we have some old hands and a fresh group of young people who’ve never done this before.”

Begun in 2014 as a senior project by then-Meadowdale student Shane Hayes, the underwater cleanups have become twice-yearly events involving scores of volunteers. For many, especially the younger team members, they provide a potent learning experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

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

She is particularly passionate about plastics and the damage they wreak on ocean systems.

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

Recent studies have shown how these small pieces have built up in ocean food chains and are now found in many of the foods we eat, thereby threatening human health.

“It used to be that we had this ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality,” Crawley explained.  “I hope that events like this help make people more aware that this stuff doesn’t just disappear.”

Beyond these goals, Crawley and her dive team’s twice-yearly underwater cleanups reflect the strong environmental stance of the Port of Edmonds, which four years ago formally added these events as a key element in its environmental plan.

“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 welcome Crawley and her team. “We work at the direct interface of the human-built environment and the natural marine environment. It’s easy to address problems we can see, but not so easy things we cannot. These youth divers, led and mentored by Annie Crawley, share that commitment and are here with us today to spend their time learning and helping to cleanup sea floor detritus left over from past activities.

“It’s not out of sight, out of mind,” he continued. “You wouldn’t believe what they bring up from the deep; even a bowling ball and maybe everything except the kitchen sink. Without their help and care all this un-natural stuff would remain hidden like an unwelcome sarcophagus to marine life. The work of these divers is a reminder that Puget Sound is a treasure and a gift to all of us.”

Also on hand were Port Commissioners Jim Orvis, David Preston, Angela Harris and Jay Grant, each of whom personally acknowledged the dive team’s dedication and spirit of volunteerism.

By the end of the morning, the team had collected almost two dumpsters worth of debris, containing everything from tools to cell phones to an old bicycle pump.

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

“Being part of events like today’s is great for raising your personal awareness, but if we’re to meaningfully address this problem we need to take the next steps,” she said. “This means writing letters to elected officials and corporations. It means showing up at council meetings and other local government functions, and most importantly it means getting out there to vote. Even if you’re too young to vote, you can influence people who do – take photos, flood Instagram, do a school project, tell the story.”

Learn more about how you can join Crawley’s dive team at the Our Oceans and You website.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Such a great event! Thank you for telling the story Larry and My Edmonds News! I so appreciate the work of Annie and her team. Annie is doing amazing work to bring awareness of the footprint we inadvertently leave behind – without judgement, only positive suggestions for how we can do better. Thank you to all who participated!

  2. Annie & the kids hit it out of the park again! (Parents too) Thanks for helping to clean up the marina. It was one student that got this started and now many are involved and even more aware.
    One person can make a difference!

    1. Great job by Annie and her team once again. This growing program is vital to the environmental health of the marina and helps develop critical awareness of the impact we all have on the marine and nearshore environments.

      Again, many thanks to Annie and her outstanding team of divers and supporters.

  3. Many, many thanks to all involved in this effort– well worth it, and it certainly reflects well on our ‘city on the Sound’..

  4. Having once dropped an expensive down rigger into the main channel while heading out fishing and later going back at low tide with a fishing rod, line, and large treble hook to retrieve it when I could see it on the bottom, I would have appreciated having this group available at that time. I got it back but looked and felt pretty foolish doing it, and probably broke a couple rules in the process. I suspect they retrieve some valuable stuff as well as junk when they do this good deed. Hope the port has a lost and found for such items found.

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