More than 133 volunteer divers are regularly helping clean the coast off Taoyuan, and the Taoyuan Office of Coast Administration Construction is looking for more part-time volunteers, office director Lin Li-chang (林立昌) said.
The team has grown from 20 to 133 divers from its founding in 2019 to last month, said Lin, who heads the cleaning team
The divers are aged 19 to 54 and come from all walks of life, including a coast guard member and one from National Chung Cheng University’s diving team, he said on Wednesday.
Photo courtesy of the Taoyuan Office of Coast Administration Construction via CNA
Lin said that before he was assigned to head the team, he did not know how to swim, but was trained in “frigid waters” in the late fall.
The office was initially concerned that people might join the team just to get free diving lessons, but the fears were relieved when an overwhelming majority of those who signed up were licensed divers, including some with diving instructor licenses, he said.
The sandy ocean floor near the Taoyuan coast causes poor underwater visibility, requiring heightened attention to diver safety, Lin said.
Last year, the team removed 91.6kg of trash from the Guanxin Algal Reefs Ecosystem Wildlife Conservation Area, joined the Discovery Channel in its seabed cleaning efforts off Keelung and volunteered on Pingtung County’s Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), he said.
The team also analyzes the trash they find in the ocean for its effects and potential sources, Lin said, adding that they help the authorities find those who are responsible.
For example, it found that a large amount of trash on local coral reefs consists of fishing nets, trapping sea turtles and other animals, he said.
The Taoyuan Government launched a buy-back program for fishing nets, and 20 tonnes of nets were bought from local fishers in its inaugural month, Lin said.
This year, the office is to introduce a program that awards stars to the divers on waste collection missions, with one star awarded for three missions, and a commendation from the Taoyuan mayor would be awarded to divers who have collected five stars, he said.
A diver surnamed Kuo (郭), 40, said that he is a Coast Guard member and a veteran of search and rescue operations, including the 2015 TransAsia air disaster in the Keelung River in Taipei.
“I have been on three ocean waste collection dives last year,” he said. “Due to low visibility, we have to collect trash by feel, and most of what we find are nets, ropes and plastics.”
Since joining the team, he has been leading a more environmentally conscious lifestyle and stopped using single-use straws and shopping bags, Kuo said.
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