By Alison Ballance
The 5th annual underwater 'Spring Clean Up'' on Wellington's waterfront took place on Saturday 20 November, and amongst the haul of rubbish were crowd control barriers, shopping trolleys, skateboards, as well as numerous bottles and cans. The theme of the day was Educate to Eliminate, and it attracted lots of curious passerbys who learnt about marine debris and the threats it poses to humans and to wildlife.
The clean up brought together divers from Underwater Wellington, Island Bay Divers and the scientific diving team from the Coastal Ecology Lab at Victoria University of Wellington, as well as other volunteers who snorkelled, kayaked or cleaned the shoreline.
The clean up was initiated five years ago by dive instructor and photographer Steve Journee, who was alarmed at the amount of rubbish being thrown or blown into the central city area, which is a popular recreation area. It is now run by Wellington City Council, with support from Sustainable Coastlines and the Department of Conservation.
The Island Marine Education Centre were on hand to help with de-crittering the rubbish. Marine animals such as crabs and octopuses quickly take up residence in and on the rubbish, and before the rubbish was sent to the tip volunteers removed as many animals as possible and returned them to the water. A few special animals, including half a dozen pygmy octopuses were taken back to the marine education centre where they will be on display for a few weeks, before being released into the Taputeranga Marine Reserve. Pygmy octopuses are found only in New Zealand, and Wellington is a hotspot for them.