Byline: Taylor Hill
AVALON — Divers and volunteers are gearing up for the 32nd annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup dive scheduled for Feb. 23, marking the only time of the year divers are allowed to explore Avalon Harbor.
While divers enjoy the chance to explore new territory, they also relish the opportunity to clean up marine debris left in the harbor.
First started in the 1970s, the dive has become an annual get-together for many divers, with some years seeing more than 500 volunteers participating in the event.
This year’s event features three dive locations in Avalon Harbor — starting at Casino Landing near the Catalina Casino, Step Beach just east of the Tuna Club and just north of the Green Pleasure Pier.
In addition, divers will be able to explore and help clean up Lover’s Cove for the first time since the underwater cleanup was instituted. Located just outside Avalon Harbor east of Cabrillo Mole, Lover’s Cove is a protected California state marine preserve and is normally closed to divers.
Proceeds from the Avalon Harbor Underwater Cleanup will benefit the University of Southern California Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and the Catalina Conservancy’s Robert E. Given Fund for Ocean Conservation and Educational Outreach.
The USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber is an emergency recompression facility on Catalina Island — open seven days a week, 24 hours a day — that serves thousands of divers who frequent the waters off Southern California.
After the cleanup is completed, divers and volunteers will gather at Avalon’s Wrigley Stage, where an awards ceremony will be held. Prizes will be presented to divers who bring up the most discover the most unusual items under water.
Registration is available online at catalinaconservancy.org. The cost is $50 per person through Feb. 23. On-site registration will be available the day of the event, from 7-8:45 a.m., at $60 per person. However, early registration is encouraged, as late arrivals are not guaranteed participation in the event.
To be eligible to dive in the Avalon Underwater Cleanup, participants must be trained scuba divers certified by any national agency recognized by the Recreational Scuba Training Council.