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Last September, the largest event in the history of diving captured attention around the world-and I do mean world! Divers in all 50 United States (a record) and in 89 countries (another record) staged underwater cleanups.
Underwater Cleanup ’96 took place Saturday, September 21 and was the result of thousands of volunteers who decided to take ocean matters into their own hands (and gloves!). Divers are fed up with rivers, lakes, streams and oceans being used as dumping grounds for all types of garbage. By making a morning or afternoon dive to help clean them up, we want to send a direct message to the nondiving world: Stop it! These are the waters we drink and play in and they are vital to our planet’s health. They are not the marine equivalents of landfills and we’re going to keep cleaning them up till everyone gets the message!
How big was the World’s Largest Diving Event? Well, 100 divers getting together is a noteworthy event, several hundred is unique and it’s almost unheard of for 1,000 divers to get together. In 1995, an estimated 10,000 divers participated in the Underwater Cleanup; last year it is estimated there were 30,000. In 1997, participation is expected to eclipse that of 1996. The staff of SKIN DIVER wants to say a tremendous thank you to every one who participated in the 1996 Underwa-ter Cleanup. (For more details on some of the exciting events that took place last year, see our story on page 24.)
Additional thanks are also owed the unsung heroes, the local coordinators in those 50 states and 89 countries who devoted lots of personal time to help the events run smoothly and safely. These folks are concerned divers, instructors, retail dive stores, resorts and others who feel the best way to help clean up our waters is to do something, not just talk about it! Again, congratulations to them all.
The world’s largest event needs some formal coordination and as you might expect, some of diving’s largest entities are strongly behind it. The folks at PADI did an incredible job of getting the word out to stores/instructors in the U.S. and around the world and much of the credit for the growth of this fabulous event goes to them. They are ably joined by DEMA/Ocean Futures, another partner that represents both the dive industry in general (DEMA) and specific environmental concerns (Ocean Futures). But, even with all this industry support the cleanups would be a series of unconnected dots if it weren’t for the Center for Marine Conser-vation (CMC). Based in Washington, DC, this international organization is dedicated to cleaning up water around the planet. It helped create the International Beach Cleanup more than a decade ago and more than 200,000 people participate in that event every year. It is a partnership that works and one in which the total contribution of all partners is far stronger than any of the individual contributions. SKIN DIVER is proud to be a founding partner of this coalition. We are happy to pledge our future support not only for underwater cleanups but any project that helps improve our diving environment.
We have even more ambitious goals for the future. We would like to see divers in all 50 states participate again and we would like to ask for your help and support in raising the total participation to 50,000 divers next year.
If you would like to be a Trash Captain or local coordinator, please contact the CMC or PADI. They will get you all the information you need. And, just before the event, your name will be published right here on the pages of SKIN DIVER.
A new category-Mini-Cleanups-is being added this year for groups as small as individual buddy teams. All you have to do is get a buddy (or a couple of buddies) together and decide to do a cleanup on or around September 20, 1997. Just before the event, we will publish a card in SKIN DIVER that will allow you to fill out the time and place of your Mini-Cleanup and report (simply) what kind of trash you found. All you have to do is make the dive, fill out the card and send it in!
You will hear a great deal more about the 1997 cleanup in the pages of SDM in the coming months but it’s never too early to get a head start on this year’s project. The long range goal is not limited to trash collection but also to the elimination of dumping in our waters. And, this year we’re also going to try to get rid of the monofilament line that litters many of our popular dive sites. The success of the ’95 and ’96 cleanups says we have plenty of volunteers and they are more than ready to make a dive for the ocean’s sake. Please join me, the SKIN DIVER staff and our extended family of friends and co-sponsors in making the ’97 Underwater Cleanup the most successful event of the year.