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Dumpster Diving New Zealand Style

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By Rob Wilson

The date was February 23, 2014, and I was ready to launch my event, which I called “Fight for the Future.” This particular cleanup was totally inspired by the work of Cas Renooji and Pascal van Erp with their Ghost Fishing adventures in the North Sea. I had watched in absolute awe as these guys operated at 60 meters clearing enormous nets.  As a GUE diver with a “Fundies” (Fundamentals) Tech pass, I knew I wasn’t ready for that. However, my enthusiasm would not be curbed. I wanted to make a difference. It wasn’t my first cleanup, but it was the first that I had taken on the organizational lead.

Rob Wilson and Serena Cox give the shore briefing before the clean-up efforts begin. Photo Credit: Amanda White.

Call it New Zealand Dumpster Diving!

During our first event we hauled out everything from tires to hundreds of kilograms of bottles. All of the divers had a blast, and we were eager to clean up more dive sites. After the success and impressive haul of this first cleanup, we were hooked and consequently started to get more regular cleanups underway.

Our following also grew and we went from strength to strength. We soon affiliated our project with the international Ghost Fishing crew and began sharing information. Cas was coaching me behind the scenes in everything from team management to how to deal with the media.

Free divers, scuba divers, and the shore crew work together to remove rubbish. Photo Credit: Amanda White

Meanwhile, my Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) training also continued behind the scenes with Instructor Trainer Jamie Obern. I had undertaken various courses and expeditions with Jamie. Each course was like a piece of a puzzle from one grand image that I didn’t even know existed yet, until all of the pieces started to fit together. The skill set that the GUE training with Jamie gave me made operating in extremely low visibility environments a lot easier, so did having good buoyancy and trim. With that skill set, we were able to swim neutrally with multiple street cones and safely do ascents while carrying objects and managing loads of gear.

As Ghost Fishing New Zealand (GFNZ), we have learned a great deal of lessons and are constantly improving and streamlining our skills, including topside safety procedures. We also have an outreach program and go to local schools and businesses to talk about Ghost Fishing and what we do and how anyone can help. We regularly work with local groups and also the NZ Coast Guard to further improve the safety and awareness of our diver teams.

One Person’s Trash is Another Person’s Treasure

The things we have found beneath the surface have been amazing. We found a small section of a comet that fell in Russia in the 1920s, glass jars filled with coins, a Vietnamese whiskey bottle with a king cobra and scorpion in it, and four porcelain toilets—one is now a planter in my garden.

Photo Credit for gallery images: Rob Wilson, Ghost Fishing NZ.

Our team has come from all areas of diving and marine science. We have free divers and every level of diver from open water divers to trimix-certified CCR divers. And we’ve grown in both number and capability since our first cleanup. The feeling of bringing so many people together as a community, to fight for our shared future, is incredible.

We have also won some fantastic awards. We were lucky enough to win one of New Zealand’s most prestigious diving awards, the NZUA Leo Ducker award, for our work, along with multiple awards and recognition for the environment and heritage. For our team and volunteers to be recognized for the work we have done is incredibly humbling and a great honor. Our goal is to work toward making it more beautiful down under!

Interested in reading more aquatic conservation stories? Find more here.


Rob Wilson, one of the youngest scuba divers to certify in New Zealand at age 13, is a photographer by trade (specializing in astro and landscapes) and founder of Ghost Fishing NZ (GFNZ), a volunteer organization that removes more than a ton of rubbish from the capital’s waters every month. Rob got involved with cleanup dives in 2010 when the local dive shop needed volunteers. “That first time I got such a rush out of knowing the 25 plastic bottles I removed wouldn’t be able to harm sea life.” He has been participating in and managing cleanup dives ever since.

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Diving into the fascinating world of marine biology

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A new marine biology guide for divers and snorkelers will be unveiled at DEMA 2022

PRESS RELEASE

October 24, 2022 – MONTREAL Beneath the Blue Planet is the ultimate guide to the ocean, its creatures, and its conservation. This comprehensive and pioneering book answers many of the burning questions that divers and snorkelers have when exploring the underwater world. If you want to know how the ocean works, understand the perils that coral reefs face, and learn about some of the world’s most fascinating marine creatures, then this book will guide you. Beneath the Blue Planet traces the story of our ocean from Earth’s formation to the modern day, detailing the science behind everything from currents and chemistry to the fascinating ecology of its creatures, ranging from plankton to whales. Beyond explaining why the ocean and its inhabitants are so remarkable, Beneath the Blue Planet explores the serious challenges this precious environment faces, and offers insights into how we can work to preserve it for future generations.

Beneath the Blue Planet is written by dive industry veteran, educator and marine conservation biologist Dr. Alex Brylske, and published by Reef Smart Guides, which is responsible for the well-known Dive and Snorkel travel guide series, with titles in Florida and many Caribbean destinations. The new release contains 250 captivating images and illustrations and follows the familiar Reef Smart Guides style that integrates Eco Tips, Safety Tips, and Scientific Insight boxes. This guide to the underwater world is one that every avid diver and snorkeler should have on their bookshelf or in their dive bag alongside their logbook. 

This exciting new guide will be unveiled at the DEMA 2022 show in Orlando, FL, November 1-4, 2022. While the official publication date is December 15, 2022, a limited number of signed advanced copies will be available at Author’s Corner on Wednesday, November 2, 2022 (12:00-12:30 PM) and Thursday, November 3, 2022 (11:00-11:30 AM), as well as at the Reef Smart Guides booth (#914) throughout the show. Copies of Beneath the Blue Planet can also be pre-ordered on Amazon (see QR code below).

Dr. Alex Brylske will also hold a seminar at the DEMA 2022 show in room S310A, on Wednesday, November 02, 2022 (4:00 PM – 4:45 PM), titled Perfecting the Customer Experience: The Art and Science of Coral Reef Interpretation. During the presentation, Dr. Brylske will introduce the new book and demonstrate how dive professionals can use this important new resource to create exceptional educational experiences for students and customers, as well as turn them into effective environmental advocates for ocean conservation.

This new guide is part of a major new initiative called Reef Smart Education, which aims to bring a greater understanding of marine ecology to the dive industry. Through physical publications and both online and onsite seminars, this initiative will not only help recreational divers and snorkelers get the most out of their underwater experience, but also assist dive professionals and resort staff to develop engaging educational activities and programs for their guests. 

To learn more about Beneath the Blue Planet and Reef Smart Education, visit ReefSmartGudies.com.

Contact:

Ian Popple (CEO Reef Smart Inc.)
Montreal, CANADA

Email: ian@reefsmartguides.com

Tel.: 514-448-4771

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