Divers clean harbor seeking to promote undersea programs

Divers and other volunteers collect trash gathered from the bottom of Avalon Harbor. Photo by Jim Key, USC Dornsife

Scuba divers gathered from throughout Southern California, and beyond, on Catalina Island this week to participate in the 37th Annual Harbor Clean Up day. According to organizer Jill Boivin, “it was a beautiful day and the event went remarkably well.”

More than 500 people, including approximately 440 divers and assorted support staff took part in the day-long event.

Divers combed the bottom of Avalon Bay and other areas to dredge up sea garbage and other objects which, for multiple reasons, had settled on the bottom of the Catalina’s beautiful blue sea. Support staff and other personnel collected and properly disposed of the garbage. For almost four decades now, divers pay to dive for trash. These dedicated divers put on their gear, adjust their equipment and drop to the bottom of the bay for a very good reason.

Boivin said many members of the community came out to thank the divers as the event proceeded in a professional, yet festive way throughout the day.

Divers who make the trek out to Catalina for the day had the opportunity to visit the Avalon Diving History Exhibit in the ground level of the iconic Casino building on the bay.

One lucky couple to visit the Exhibit actually turned out to be the 10,000th visitors (see related story, page 8).

The Historical Diving Society, recognized in many countries around the world, has called the Avalon exhibit one of the finest diving collections on the planet.

According to Katie Chvostal, a development officer, Friends of the Wrigley Institute, credit should also be given the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies Catalina Conservation Divers, a group of citizen scientists who monitor the waters around Catalina.

Participating divers pulled any number of items from the bottom of the ocean, approximately 1.5 tons of trash in all, she said.

The event raised nearly $25,000 in gross receipts that will be used to defray expenses and benefit two critical undersea programs. Proceeds from the annual event will benefit two programs within the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies; the USC Wrigley Institute Scientific Diving Program and USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber program. According to Chvostal, “we’ve already got the date picked for 2019,” she said, and plans are already in the works for the 38th annual Harbor Clean Up program for Feb. 23 next year.

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