Hundreds of scuba divers gathered at Catalina Island for the 37th annual Avalon Harbor Underwater Cleanup on Saturday to collect trash from the ocean.
The event was put on by the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies Catalina Conservancy Divers and the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, which treats dive accidents throughout Southern California. Proceeds from the event benefit both programs.
Ten USC students participated in this year’s cleanup, eight of whom were members of the USC Scuba Dive Club. Club president Forrest Lee, a senior studying environmental studies and business administration, said that the fee waiver for USC students helped increase participation in the cleanup.
According to Katie Chvostal, the director of the Friends of Wrigley Institute, divers found items ranging from fishing rods and wine bottles from 1999 to a large rug. Andre Mershad, a freshman majoring in environmental studies, found a t-shirt and a plastic fork while cleaning up.
“Anything you could think of was down there,” Mershad said.
Mershad said that he fell in love with diving after receiving his diving certification last summer, which was a main reason he chose to study environmental science.
“I wanted to make a direct impact on some environmental issue and plastic pollution in the ocean is a huge problem,” Mershad said. “I thought I could make a small but direct impact by coming out today.”
Chvostal said that the event was organized with Avalon Environmental Services to dispose of the trash they found. All of the metal is taken back to the mainland to be processed and recycled while the rest of the trash goes to the landfill on the island. Chvostal said that they usually collect about two and a quarter tons of trash and will know how much trash was collected this year later in the week.
According to Chvostal, 100 volunteers sorted the trash found on land and served in the kayak patrol, which monitors the conditions of the water in the harbor, while 400 volunteers dove in the water to collect trash.
Chvostal said that from this event, there was a sense of community among the divers who picked up trash.
“It’s really wonderful to see so many people band together and do something to benefit the health of our oceans,” Chvostal said.