Friday, April 29, 2011

374 lbs of debris removed from reef!


The results are in! This was by far our most successful reef cleanup in terms of how much debris was removed from the reef. This year Mike Severns Diving hosted our annual Earth Day Underwater Reef Cleanup Event, and their crew, plus the crew of Extended Horizons and a few select friends removed 374 pounds of trash and fishing tackle off the reef along the southern coast of Maui!!!

That was:
47 pounds of fishing line (monofiliment)
327 pounds of fishing tackle (lead sinkers/grabbers)
We're estimating that the size of the area of
reef we cleaned was approximately 100 sq. ft.
There was so much more to be cleaned,
but our bottom time wouldn't allow.

Each time we hold a reef cleanup we try to target areas that are commonly fished; often these areas are often along rocky cliffs. Take a look at what we're seeing underwater!

We often get the question: 
'why is there so much stuff left of the reef?'
One common-sense answer is that sometimes when fishing, the fishing line breaks... however, in the areas that we clean, more often than not, the answer is that the fishing technique used is 'slide-bait fishing.'  This requires use of 'sacrificial'  lead grabbers and some monofiliment, called the 'lead line.' The combination of a cliff-like, rocky shoreline environment  +  the slide-bait fishing technique... the result is that the fishermen are unable to retrieve the debris that is intentionally left on the reef.

So... what's the harm? 
Won't it just become part of the reef over time?
It is true, that if left long enough, all of the debris will become part of the reef... however, it may not end up being the type of reef it was initially! Things will gradually shift from a coral dominated reef to an algal dominated reef.

We're talking about two components: monofiliment line & lead grabbers.
  1. The monofiliment fishing line tangles easily around the live corals. But it's pretty thin and doesn't really do any damage, right? Yes & No. The line itself isn't what is harmful to the corals, although it does take upwards of 600 years for monofiliment to break down in the environment. The line creates spiderwebs criss crossing over the tops of lobe and finger corals, or bunches up like a baseball cap over the top of cauliflower coral heads... and the line is the perfect environment for algae to grow on. You see, those corals and algae are both looking to access the sunlight. With a 'bonnet' or 'spiderweb' of algae growing over them, the corals will not be successful, and often eventually die. Additionally, the algae grazers, such as urchins, also become tangled in the line... what is left becomes an algal dominated reef.
  2. The lead grabbers... might at first seem inert, and are often seen overgrown by corals... but recent documentation is revealing some startling effects where lead poisoning is traveling through the food chain. So do we really know for sure? Read more

Some might ask... why continue to allow this?
From Googling "slide bait fishing" you can see that the target fish for this technique are giant trevally jacks. Here in Hawaii, fishing is a part of the culture, and the result of landing a big jack... you instantly become part of your community's legends! So disallowing something so close to the heart of the community is not a viable solution.

So, what can be done?
Well, at the very least... getting groups out there to clean up the rubbish is step 1. Extended Horizons hosts cleanup events each Spring and Fall, in honor of Earth Day and International Coastal Cleanup Day. I've also heard about some eco-leaning fisherman choosing to use twine instead of monofiliment as their lead line (something more organic to be left behind). But the next step is to start taking a look as a community at this issue, and see if this is something we want to see change.

All in all... our reef cleanups are a half day, filled with lots of fun, lots of laughter, and a feel-good knowingness at the end of the day. Here is a silly video from Mike Severns Diving to show just how much good clean fun there is to be had at these events!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Celebrating Earth Day

Happy Earth Day divers! 

Each year Extended Horizons honors Earth Day with an underwater reef cleanup effort. This year, we'll be headed out of Kihei along the southern coast of Maui, with our friends from Mike Severns Diving who are graciously hosting this year's event. Our goal is to collect more marine debris than any other year and document how many individual coral colonies we save.  In an earlier post I listed off several local events where people could donate their time and effort to a good cause; but, the spirit of Earth Day is ideally something that can take root in each person and carry on throughout the year... and sure, living in Hawaii, being so close to nature, it's perhaps easier to remain aware of and motivated to "go green." But for you guys back home... just how to go about being GREEN... that can seem pretty overwhelming!

From Wikipedia: "Earth Day is a day that is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, first held on April 22, 1970."

So here's my attempt at a simple how-to at beginning to go green:

1 - No more Butts!!!  Dispose of cigarette butts properly! (they can even be recycled)

No Butts on the Beach
What goes around comes around.

2 - Get informed about Plastics and how they impact our environment... and next step is learning how to minimize your contribution to the problem!  
      Some easy ideas:
Turtles and sea birds often mistake plastic trash for food.

    • same thing with reusable water bottles & your own coffee mug, 
    • purchasing items without oversized plastic packaging
    • recycling

3 - Did I mention Recycling?.... yup, recycle.... everything.  You'll be surprised at how little trash a household makes when you sort and recycle plastics, cardboard, paper, and glass! Then add in composting, and !bam! fewer trips to take out the garbage  ;¬)

Even if you chose just one of these things... making one small change, can lead to a big impact. Really? Yea... really! As you begin to behave differently, your perception and awareness can shift, leading to more change... and through your example... you might even notice your friends and family making some changes too! You don't have to be perfect at it... you just have to get started at making some changes to your daily life.

One of my favorite Green slogans?
Think Globally. Act Locally.

Ready for something more in-depth? Turning the Tide on Trash PDF

Monday, April 18, 2011

R.E.E.F. Volunteer Surveys!

Today was Day Two with the hardy group of volunteers conducting R.E.E.F. Surveys off the boat on our Lanai 2 tank charter. Group 1 today was our survey group... their mission... identifying and counting fish species!

From REEF's website:
REEF's mission, to educate and enlist divers in the conservation of marine habitats, is accomplished primarily through the Volunteer Survey Project... The project allows volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers to collect and report information on marine fish populations as well as selected invertebrate and algae species along the West Coast of the US and Canada. The data are collected using a fun and easy standardized method, and are housed in a publicly-accessible database on REEF's Website. These data are used by a variety of resource agencies and researchers. 

You can learn more on their website:

We have two more REEF Survey trips scheduled this week: Wednesday (4/20) & Thursday (4/21)... call our office for more details!  808-667-0611

Earth Day Events

Earth Day 2011 is right around the corner! ... April 22nd ... This year, EH Staff will be participating in a reef cleanup along the south coast of Maui, on Sunday April 24th. We're hoping to break all former records for removing debris off the reefs (current record is 137 lbs removed)! We've decided that instead of just measuring the weight of the debris we remove, we will attempt to document how many individual coral colonies we save.

What kind of debris are we removing from Maui's reefs?
Primarily, fishing line and tackle. Did you know it takes 600 years for fishing line to degrade in the environment? It's a complex issue because the fishing line isn't what actually kills the coral colonies; it's the fact that the fishing line wrapped around the coral heads, creates an available space for algae to grow. If the fishing line is tangled all over the top of the coral head, then eventually the coral head will be covered in a 'bonnet' of algae, preventing it from getting the sunlight, nutrients, and clear water it needs to survive.

What are some local efforts where you can get involved?

On Maui:
4/22 - Haleakala Restoration 7:30a-2:30p (Pacific Whale Foundation)
4/23 - Malama Honokawai 9a-5p (Pacific Whale Foundation)
4/23 - Ho‘okipa Restoration 8a-11a
4/23 - Honolua Bay & Lipoa Point Cleanup  8a-11a (Save Honolua Coalition)
4/23 - Kahikili Cleanup  9a-2p  (Kaanapali Makai Watch)

Around the World:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

EH Staff receives annual EFR Training

Last week our entire staff received its annual Emergency First Responder training, which includes CPR and First Aid. Perhaps this isn't the most fun, exciting, or 'snazzy' entry to start off our DiveBlog... but it seems appropriate that we start with the fundamentals of our philosophy... Safety, Fun, & Education... Safety being first!