The Walleye Magazine

Taking Out the Trash

Catching Up with Eco Divers Thunder Bay

By Matt Prokopchuk

The head of an organization dedicated to cleaning trash out of bodies of water in and around Thunder Bay says it’s important to remember that just because trash is out of sight underwater doesn’t mean it should be there.

Len Mason is the founder and coordinator of Eco Divers Thunder Bay, a group that has been around for about 14 years. They have pulled countless items up from beneath the surface, including tires, appliances, toilets, fencing, broken lawn furniture, and other scrap, along with much smaller items. He says the divers who volunteer to go on these cleanups are fully trained (they also have to pass his inspection—Mason is a longtime expert diver) “Garbage does not belong anywhere, whether it’s land or water,” he says. “Everybody who’s involved with Eco Divers feels the same way; it’s just the right thing to do.”

Eco Diver crews consist of members who actually do the diving and locating of garbage, as well as others who remain on shore “pulling rope,” as Mason describes it. Divers go underwater with one end of a rope and attach it to either a large piece of trash or a mesh bag filled with smaller items. The crew on shore then pulls the rope (and the trash) back up onto land.

The group operates on no stable funding, Mason says, relying on sponsorships, donations, and other ad hoc financial help. Their only excursion this past season was to Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging (Rocky Bay First Nation), where they have done several aquatic cleanups. In the past, they’ve done dives at Thunder Bay’s marina, the mouth of the Current River, Silver Harbour, and Nipigon’s marina, as well as the town’s Lagoon (Mason says they’ve pulled 500 tires out of those waters alone).

With so many dives and recoveries, there’s bound to be some odd finds. At various locations, Mason says crews have come across a large safe with no door (he himself found that one), part of a 9 mm pistol (subsequently turned over to police), and even a vibrator (“someone [initially] thought it was a flashlight until we got it to shore and [we] emptied the mesh bag,” he says). Other finds have been more meaningful. Mason says last year at the marina, crews found an expensive purse that was lost in the water at Wake the Giant. After drying it and its contents out, they were able to use the ID and locate the purse’s owner and return it— the car key fob even still worked.

In all, Mason says he and the people who dive and work with him enjoy using their expertise for a positive goal. “We have the ability to do it, so we do it, and everybody’s happy when we’re done,” he says. “Everybody walks away from an eco dive feeling good about themselves and that they’ve done good for the environment.”





Superior Outdoors