For the past 15 years, Dixie Divers in Deerfield Beach, FL has been hosting an annual Save Deerfield Beach event to clean the local shoreline. This year, dive shop owner Arilton Pavan and the Deerfield Beach Women’s Club sought to make their biggest impact yet by breaking the world record for the largest underwater cleanup.
The official title of the record is “Most participants in an underwater cleanup in 24 hours”, which was previously held by Ahmed Gabr, who led 614 divers on a cleanup in Egypt’s Red Sea in 2015. On June 15th, 2019, the Florida event broke that record when a total of 633 SCUBA divers from the United States, Europe, and South America gathered at the Deerfield Beach Pier to help clean up the ocean. The effort even drew Guinness adjudicator Michael Empric from New York to make the official head count. In order for a diver to be counted, they had to be SCUBA certified, wear full SCUBA gear, and spend at least 15 minutes searching for trash underwater. While the previous record was done in a 24-hour time frame, the Florida divers managed to break the record in just two hours—from 9am to 11 am. In addition to the divers, approximately 80 snorkelers and 150 beachgoers participated. Project AWARE reports that over 9,000 individual pieces of marine debris were removed, totaling 3,200 pounds. Project AWARE is a non-profit organization that hosts a citizen science program titled Dive Against Debris®. Many of the divers at the cleanup also worked as volunteers for this program and submitted details about the types and quantities of trash that they collected to Project AWARE. The program will use this data to inform policy makers and create solutions to the growing ocean pollution problem. The city of Deerfield Beach also assisted in the proper recycling and disposal of the collected debris.
Plastic is one of the top pollutants in the ocean, but the divers here found an abundance of lead pollution. The cleanup took place near a fishing pier, where “countless lead sinkers” were unearthed just below the sand. Lead fishing gear is toxic to wildlife and can poison fish and birds that mistake it for food. Just one lead sinker can kill some species of birds such as loons. Other notable garbage included “a boat ladder, a barbell, and a metal sign still stamped with red lettering: ‘Boats Must Not Come Within 100 Yards of Pier.’” The sign was found by 13-year-old Dahlia Bolin, who traveled to Florida with her mother from Illinois to participate in the effort. The record-breaking divers are a true testament to how powerful a group of concerned citizens can be when it comes to protecting our environment.
Have you participated in any local or worldwide cleanup efforts?
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