On Saturday, August 27, 2022, divers from all over the area gathered at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier for the annual Pier Clean Up Dive.
- It was a record turnout with nearly 100 divers removing over 200 pounds of debris from the pier pilings and the sea floor underneath the pier on Okaloosa Island.
“Hundreds of people fish from this pier every single day,” explains Jessica Valek, Okaloosa Coastal Resource Coordinator, in a Facebook Live video. “Fish can break the line, and that line ends up in the water and can get wrapped around pier pilings, which is not good for our environment.”
Certified divers from the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area and all over were invited to the cleanup event. The pier was closed to the public so divers could get in with scuba gear and dive equipment to remove the trash.
Items found include:
- Fishing line
- Fishing gear
- Bait containers
- Fishing lures
- Fishing rods
- Dive weights from the boats
- Water bottles
- Beer cans
“Ghost fishing is a real thing and that is something that typically happens when this debris gets left in the water for too long,” explained Valek.
Ghost fishing is a term that describes what happens when abandoned fishing gear unintentionally ‘continues to fish’ and traps animals, entangles and potentially kills marine life, smothers habitat, and acts as a hazard to navigation.
Even with sea turtles frequently hanging around the Pier, it is very easy for them to get caught in that fishing line and get stuck under water and then eventually not make it.
- “So it’s very important that we are always out here trying to remove as much as we can,” added Valek.
A lot of locals came out including the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, the Divers Down Pollution Project, and Gulf area and Island locals.
- “We also had people pick up trash from the beach. This was a huge collaborative event and wouldn’t be possible without such amazing community participation,” says Valek.
There was a special menu afterwards at Angler’s along with free beer from Destin Brewery.
Looking ahead: A big event coming up is the International Coastal Cleanup. It will be held on Saturday, September 17, from 8 to 10 am at the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.
- Everyone of all ages can come out and participate.
- Volunteers will get a free volunteer t-shirt and a delicious pancake breakfast.