Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Harbour Cleanup Dive

On Sunday 22nd April Milord and I participated in a harbour cleanup scuba dive to bring up fishing line clogging the bottom at a popular fishing spot in the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, about half an hour’s drive north of Sydney.

Whenever someone says “harbour” to me I always think of smelly, oily, concrete boat harbours with high walls and breakwaters. Well, in Sydney they just mean an estuary, which has oodles of river mouths and bays and peninsulas and moorings. While there are a few mud banks around, in most places the shore is sheer and rocky and there are some impressive sandstone cliffs.

Illawong Bay has a nice grassy picnic area, and a rocky shore covered in razor sharp oyster shells below the tide line, turning to sludge at around 10m. As you may imagine it’s not particularly good for diving, with plenty of murk and not much coral or whatnot. I’m not sure why it’s good for fishing either, as we didn’t see anything over 10cm long while we were down there.

What we did see was a lot of was fishing line! We came to the conclusion that no fisherman goes home with their line (or a fish) after casting off Illawong Bay, as there are areas where the layers of snarled line, hooks and sinkers are close to a foot deep. I couldn’t work out what I was looking at at first, as it resembled ropes and cables on the sea bed, not slender nylon fishing line! There are also quite a number of rods down there, and bottles and cups, the odd chair and even a few lorry parts. It is amazing what people throw into the sea!

Yes, that really is fishing line - and the vis was that bad!

We were down for nearly an hour, tearing and cutting line away, and stuffing it into a woven bag. The weight of the sinkers we brought up was startling; I reckon we had about 10kg of lead in the bag by the end, which made for some interesting buoyancy control. At one point I got tired and handed the bag to Milord – as I let go he sank like a stone and I rocketed towards the surface! Lots of bubbles and thrashing ensued while we sorted it out, only to do the reverse a bit later when he handed the bag back to me ;-).

10 divers went down for line, and several other folk walked the shoreline collecting litter. Sadly we don’t think we made much difference, as there is just so much to bring up. Hopefully the HarbourKeepers organization will be organizing another cleanup there, with more divers and extra tanks to have another attempt. It's not exactly a great recreational dive, but it's good to be putting something back into the community.

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