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Volunteer divers find cell phones, car parts and more at Catalina Island event

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In an annual demonstration of the need to protect Catalina Island's waters and marine life, 479 volunteer divers collected debris yesterday from the bottom of Avalon Harbor as part of the 33rd annual underwater cleanup, supported by the Catalina Island Conservancy Divers support group.

The trash they collected from the ocean floor ranged from tires to cell phones, creating four large piles of debris that dotted the beaches in the midday sun. Among the oddest items the divers recovered were an algae covered chair, thermostat for an engine, plastic green army man and a rusted barbeque. Some of the more valuable discoveries were an assortment of cell phones and glass bottles from the early 1900s.

"As a marine biologist who dives the waters off Catalina, I appreciate the wonderful service that the Catalina Island Conservancy Divers support group and other divers from near and far perform for the good of Avalon Bay, " said Ann Muscat, president and CEO of the Catalina Island Conservancy. "The vast amount of debris collected each year vividly demonstrates the need to protect our oceans and marine life by carefully disposing of trash when we are on the ocean and on land."

Trash dumped into the ocean intentionally or accidentally can harm the marine ecosystem. Marine mammals and other sea life may ingest harmful items or become entangled in debris. The disruption to the food chain can have a lasting impact.

The annual event also helps to remind the many boaters and visitors to the Island about the ramifications of tossing items overboard or carelessly discarding of trash on land. Catalina is California's only destination island, attracting nearly one million people a year. Most arrive by boat. The Island also is a popular dive spot, drawing thousands of divers and snorkelers annually to enjoy the wide assortment of wildlife thriving in its rich kelp forests.

The Catalina Island Conservancy has a long history of protecting and restoring the invaluable natural, cultural and recreational assets of Catalina to keep the Island beautiful and healthy. And through its divers support group, it participates in the annual underwater cleanup to improve the health of Avalon Bay and protect the Island's marine life.

The Catalina Island dive community started the Avalon Underwater Cleanup in the 1970s, and this event is the only time diving is permitted in Avalon Harbor. This combination of a rare diving opportunity for a good cause has made the Avalon Harbor Underwater Cleanup one of the most popular dive events in Southern California.

Divers pick one of four sites to work during the morning the Green Pier, Step Beach, Casino Landing and Lover's Cove. Registrations to the Annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup benefit the University of Southern California Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and the Catalina Island Conservancy's Robert E. Given Fund for Ocean Conservation and Educational Outreach. The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber is a 24/7 emergency recompression facility on Catalina that serves thousands of divers who frequent the waters of Southern California.

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