© 2021 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Environment
In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Irma Cleanup Moves Offshore And Under Water In Keys

diver_trapline_irma_keys_cleanup.jpg
Jack Fishman
/
A diver brings up a trapline collected during a marine debris cleanup in the Keys.

Sofas, refrigerators, pipes and lobster traps all wound up littering the Keys reef and backcountry flats after Hurricane Irma blew through in September.

Now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary wants to deploy volunteer divers to remove the debris.

Dive operators need to get training from the sanctuary and, in some cases, permits from the state before they can remove debris from environmentally sensitive areas.

“Even just a trapline wrapped around a delicate coral, you’ve got to know how to take it off and even if it should be taken off,” said Gena Parsons, spokeswoman for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in the Keys.

rainbow_reef_dive_debris_remove_irma_keys.jpg
Credit Jack Fishman
Divers from Rainbow Reef Dive Center in the Keys removed trap line and other debris left in Keys waters by Hurricane Irma.

Training sessions for dive operators are planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at the sanctuary offices in Key West and Key Largo.

“Teaching people to recognize what is more harmful is really the key and what we’re looking for, particularly out on the reef,” Parsons said.

Removing lobster traps, for example, requires a special permit from the state.

The sanctuary is hoping to get divers trained and underwater removing those traps before the next lobster season begins in August.

“It’s a narrow window,” she said.

Blue Star dive operators, who have gone through sanctuary training, are also eligible for reimbursement of costs for removing debris.

People who see underwater debris can report it to Mote Marine’s coral reef monitoring program.

More than 2.5 million cubic yards of debris was removed from land in the Keys after the storm. The county has now turned its attention to cleaning up canals throughout the island chain. The Coast Guard removed more than 1,600 vessels from the Keys after the storm.