KAILUA-KONA, Hawai’i (KHON2) — Ocean Defender Alliance, a non-profit group, held a massive cleanup at Honokohau Harbor led by ODA’s scuba divers who worked with volunteers.

“This was an incredible day for us, we’ve been doing these cleanups on the Big Island for about four years. I think this was our 9th underwater cleanup on the harbor itself, and we’ve moved our way around from one end and actually circumnavigated our way all the way around just to about the opening to the mouth of the harbor,” said Kurt Lieber, president and founder of Ocean Defenders Alliance.

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The cleanup took place on Sunday, Nov. 13. So, what were the things found on the ocean’s floor?

“Today, we got 46 tires and we’re estimating about 3,500 pounds of other debris so that was a really big take,” said Lieber.

According to Lieber and Sarah Milisen, Hawai’i Island chapter leader for Ocean defenders Hawaiians, the most common items were associated with boating and construction materials.

“I would say the most common items we pulled up were pipes, carpets and things like that that the boats have used. Hoses, PVC, lots of construction materials around the harbor edges,” said Milisen.

Milisen added that there was a big turnout from local Big Island residents and several companies that helped to sponsor the cleanup.

According to Lieber, tires tend to be one of the most toxic rubbish dumped into our oceans. “I think most people aren’t aware of how toxic tires are. We’ve removed, I have to say, it’s almost 1,000 tires over the times we’ve been doing this. Not just on the Big Island but we also have chapters on O’ahu.”

At one dive in July on O’ahu, ODA removed over 110 tires. “These tires are really toxic. They have about 200 different chemicals that go into making them up, and these chemicals leech into the water over time. We don’t know what havoc it reeks, what havoc it does to the critters in the water that can’t get away from it,” added Lieber.

Hermit crabs tend to gravitate towards these discarded tires. Lieber said, “they found 1,000 dead hermit crabs inside one tire.”

It is not only Hawai’i residents who participate in protecting Hawaii’s waters. Lieber said he met a California couple who travelled to Kona to help with the clean up.

“I really think that the people that come out to these cleanups really need to be acknowledged,” Lieber said.

The ocean-based cleanups involve collaboration with divers who work to pull things from the ocean floor to bring to the shoreline where volunteers sort and seek to recycle as much as possible.

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“It takes a big team effort, not just the divers. You don’t have to be scuba certified. You can have anyone volunteer and help do all the heavy lifting. It’s dirty work but it’s super rewarding to pull that stuff our of the ocean,” concluded Milisen.