Volunteer divers go deep during Edmonds Marina underwater cleanup

The surface team wheels a toter full of underwater debris collected by the dive team back to the onshore collection point.
A wide selection of tools such as these clamps were found on the bottom under the boat moorage.
Remember Heildelberg beer? An old Heidelberg bottle attests to length of time this debris has been building up.
Inevitably, undersea creatures like this crab come to the surface clinging to the debris. The dive and shore teams carefully rescue these animals and return them to the water.
A dive team member takes the plunge.
Annie Crawley brings up a tangle of hoses.
Addie Morris of Bothell, age 13, received her divers’ certification this summer and is on her first marina cleanup.
Aquila Gandee, age 7, of Mountlake Terrace shows off a pair of barnacle-encrusted Ray Bans brought up by her brother, a member of Crawley’s dive team.
This pre-World War II electric fan was among the more bizarre items brought to the surface.
The debris included a selection of cell phones from various eras, including this barnacle-encrusted Blackberry.
There is probably an interesting story about how a skateboard ended up at the bottom.
The team pauses for a group shot with the debris pile.

In a semiannual event that has become a tradition at the Edmonds Marina, “Ocean Annie” Crawley and her team of mostly young volunteer scuba divers took to the depths under the Edmonds Marina boat moorages Sunday morning to make a dent in the years of accumulated debris that fell, dropped or was tossed into the water from boats and docks.

Crawley is an internationally known oceanographer, underwater photographer, educator, youth organizer and tireless advocate for the oceans’ environmental health. She and her crew of volunteers see this as much more than just a cleanup, but a part of their larger shared mission to raise awareness of marine environmental issues.

And the message has resonance, especially among young people. Crawley is continually bringing in new members through her Our Ocean and You program, to not only share the joys of being immersed in the underwater environment, but also gain a passion for the larger mission of ocean care, stewardship and conservation. And you don’t have to be a diver to be part of her team – it’s open to all who have a passion for protecting and nurturing the ocean environment.

“I believe it’s important to always be bringing new divers and other team members into this effort, and today is no different,’ said Crawley. “Today we have some old hands and a fresh group of young people who’ve never done this before.”

While ocean stewardship and environmental awareness covers lots of territory, these days Crawley is particularly focused on plastics and the damage they wreak on ocean systems.

“Every piece of plastic that’s ever been made is still on earth,” she points out. “Plastic does not biodegrade – but it does photodegrade. Light – especially ultraviolet – 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, are being found in many of the foods we eat and are an increasingly recognized threat to human health.

“We need to get beyond the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality,” Crawley explained. “When you throw something into a body of water, it doesn’t just sink to the bottom and go away.

“Just look at what we’re bringing up today,” she exclaimed as she grabbed a plastic picnic knife from the pile of refuse brought to the surface.  “Single-use plastics like this are a huge threat to the ocean environment, and by extension a huge threat to us.”

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. Port Commissioners David Preston, Angela Harris, Steve Johnston and Jay Grant were on hand to show their support and thank Crawley and her team for helping raise awareness of this issue.

By the end of the morning Crawley and her team had collected enough debris to fill two dumpsters.  While impressive, she stresses that this represents only a small dent in the worldwide problem of ocean pollution.

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

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Thank you Annie Crawley and your volunteers for bringing attention to this problem and taking the the time to chip away at the mess. Nice article Larry and great photos.

  2. Annie is a great Teacher! It is fun to watch her interact with all the kids. “Safety first” because it has to be that way.
    The Port is grateful to have this clean-up program twice a year. Thank you to all the divers and to those that were not in the water helping. It is a big team effort

  3. Great story! Great pictures! Thank you Annie and team, and thanks Larry for telling the story.

  4. Thank you Annie and your team!! It has been several since we had our boat moored on the Edmonds docks during that time items sometimes went overboard once or twice we had to employ a diver. We are believers In a pure clean sound!!!

  5. Thank you this is wonderful. Keep at it! I am sure there is so much down there. I admire all who contributed to this effort. I hope people are not throwing things in the Sound or any of our bodies of water anywhere. So many things like this clean up and just being responsible citizens will help everyone. This has nothing to do with politics citizens of Edmonds. This is for the good of all. WAY TO GO. I wish I could scuba dive! too old ha. I love that Fan. I hope someone repurposes that…I bet they could. Its cool!

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