Twillingate diver tackles new environmental mission
Shawn Bath hopes to continue growing the Clean Harbours Initiative
After 21 years as a commercial diver, Shawn Bath is looking to utilize his skills in the water to clean and protect the ocean.
Through his travels into the Atlantic, the Twillingate-born man has seen first-hand the nets, tires, plastics and other garbage left behind on the many beaches and coves of the province.
With a desire to get back in the water and tackle the issue himself, Bath started the Clean Harbours Initiative earlier this year.
“I needed a good way to keep in the water, so I decided this is what I’ll do – clean up some of the garbage I’d been swimming over these past few years,” said Bath. “To me, this is more important than making money. Now it’s time to give something back.”
For the past two and a half months, Bath has donned his diving gear and ventured to around 10 beaches – mostly on the Avalon. He has returned to his hometown of Twillingate in hopes of spending the rest of September and October cleaning up around the wharves across Twillingate Island.
While this mission of environmental protection is now Bath’s drive for getting into the ocean, it’s something he still did on and off during his years as a commercial diver.
“I dove to catch sea urchins, worked with police retrieving vehicles, whatever I could do to keep me in the water,” Bath said. “Every time I came across a ghost net we’d pull it up to the boat and bag it, take whatever live fish or skeletons in there out of it.
“And based off what I’ve seen in all the harbours of Newfoundland I’ve dove into, in my lifetime I could take at least 100,000 tires out of the water.”
Knowing the amounts of shrink wrap, plastic and rope bundled into the seas, Bath decided his first locale for the Clean Harbours Initiative would be a wharf near a fish plant in Bay Roberts.
While he first got some odd stares, Bath says the appreciation and support for his work soon started piling in.
“The first day I did it I felt ridiculous,” Bath said with a laugh. “Here I was from Twillingate cleaning up a wharf in Bay Roberts, all in my diving gear. People came around asking me what I was doing, but pretty soon people we’re coming around saying, ‘It’s about time someone did this.’”
The support for Bath’s work has steadily grown with each beach he tackles. Hundreds of feet of rope was donated from a crab fishermen to help Bath haul tires from the sea floor. He has also met with conservation groups like the Sea Shepard Canada.
His mission had come to a sudden stop recently though after the zippers on his 17-year-old diving suit broke while swimming in Jenkins Cove in Twillingate. When he got a quote that the repair job would cost him $850, he was worried about extensive delays in getting the funds to repair it.
However, the Twillingate Lion’s Club were informed of Bath’s need for funding. On Monday, Sept. 17, the club pitched in offering Bath a donation of $850.
Now Bath is preparing to get back in the water along Twillingate Island as soon as his suit is repaired.
His years of experience have given Bath a clear portrait of the damage wrought by plastics, rubber and nets left in the sea. From seeing abandoned nets filled with skeletons, tires deteriorating into the mud and beach soil made up over 60 per cent plastic, he says it’s a strong motivator in continuing this effort.
“This stuff can be poisonous to our environment,” said Bath. “Every day these tires are breaking down and getting into our food chain. I’ve come across nets that have been left in the water a good 15 to 20 years, full of everything from flounders, crabs and gannets.
“One net like that can kill thousands in marine life.”
Bath currently documents the clean-up work on his Facebook page, with a set goal on spreading the word and growing the organization as much as possible.
With plans for discussions with government and private donors, Bath hopes that Clean Harbours Initiative can become fully equipped in the future with more diving gear, a boat and volunteer divers. If he can get all of these things in motion, Bath says he will be taking the initiative to beaches across the island.
“Once we’re up and running properly we could spend six hours a day in the water,” he said. “Eventually we will achieve it because the support we’ve been getting so far is tremendous.”
Shawn Bath has spent the past two and a half months diving and cleaning beaches around the Avalon He is now back in his hometown of Twillingate to continue those efforts as part of his project Clean Harbours Initiative
An example of some of the bottles, tires and other garbage Shawn Bath has been clearing from beaches in the province. He hopes the Clean Harbours Initiative will grow in time with a boat, more diving gear and volunteer divers.