VENICE — About 20 tons.
That’s the estimated weight of discarded fishing gear, crab pots, tires, even the proverbial kitchen sink pulled up by volunteers of the Suncoast Reef Rovers Diving Club since they began beach and underwater cleanups 22 years ago.
On Tuesday, Mayor John Holic honored the volunteers by bestowing the mayor’s Pillar of the Community Award on the group.
Ken Lackmann, underwater debris coordinator for the group, and a group of volunteers, including their youngest and co-founder Bill Willson, accepted the award.
“Many are scuba divers, some are snorkelers, some work on land,” said Holic, describing the volunteers.
Four times a year, Reef Rovers do beach cleanups between Service Club Beach and the Municipal Pier, collecting about 100 pounds of trash each outing.
There are six underwater cleanups each year, including the North Jetty, South Jetty, Venice Beach, the Municipal Pier, and special locations like the Crow’s Nest Marine and Venice Mooring Field in Roberts Bay. They typically draw in around 500 pounds of trash each outing, but it can be substantially more.
In July they dragged up 947 pounds. A few years back, at the mooring field, they brought up a dinghy and even a sunken sailboat. Some of the items have been too heavy to lift.
At their last underwater event, they pulled up six cast nets that covered 17,123 square feet, four pounds of lead from the cast nets, fishing poles, 400 feet of rope, and lots and lots of monofilament fishing line.
“In all, they’ve collected 20 tons of garbage over 20 years. We really appreciate the work they do, and will for years to come,” Holic said.
The volunteers have a blast. There’s a core of 20-30 divers, and another 200-300 volunteers.
“If you’ve ever been to one of their events you know they is a lot of camaraderie,” Holic said.
The club meets on the third Wednesday of each month at the Nokomis Community Center, 234 Nippino Trail, Nokomis. Meetings are open to the public, and begin at 6:30 p.m.