Twillingate diver tack­les new en­vi­ron­men­tal mis­sion

Shawn Bath hopes to con­tinue grow­ing the Clean Har­bours Ini­tia­tive

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KYLE GREEN­HAM

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.”

Grow­ing sup­port

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.

Look­ing ahead

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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