Scuba Divers’ Haunting Photos Show Devastating Impact of Ocean Trash on Marine Life

From plastic to discarded fishing nets, staggering levels of garbage in the world's oceans are taking a deadly toll.

Many of us know about the staggering levels of ocean pollution, but not all of us have seen a giant sponge sliced through by fishing line or have tugged back armfuls of trash lurking deep underwater.

Now, through a striking photo campaign, Beneath The Wavesfrom the Project AWARE Foundation—a global community of scuba divers who are working toward trash-free oceans—we get to see how our oceans are treated like trash dumps up close and personal, and why action must be taken immediately.



For the past month, divers from around the world have been uploading photos of marine debris onto TwitterInstagram and Project AWARE’s website to bring attention and urge for solutions to this transnational issue.

Why scuba divers? Well, few people know the scourge of ocean pollution better than they do.

“We’re citizen scientists, educators, philanthropists and advocates. We’re united together under a common passion, respect and desire to protect our ocean,” Project AWARE said in a statement from the campaign.

“Divers see firsthand the devastating impact rubbish can cause on ocean wildlife,” the foundation continued. “With more than 1 in 10 species affected by marine debris threatened with extinction, our actions to protect are more urgently needed than ever before.”

In the photos below, divers share their unique and haunting view of underwater life affected by pollution. Some of the most devastating photos are of marine life such as whales, rays and crabs trapped in discarded fishing line, bottles and other debris.

The efforts from this 30-day campaign led to the second Our Ocean 2015 conference, which was held in Chile Oct. 5-6, in which topics such as illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, ocean acidification and climate change were discussed. The first conference was held last June in Washington, DC, as an initiative of Secretary of State John Kerry.

You can see more photos of marine debris as well as upload your own at this link here. You can also participate on social media using the hashtag #BeneathTheWaves.

Grey Whale ... almost got free. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Juvenile Green turtle found in a ghost net on a beach, Alphonse Island, Seychelles. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Divers are taking action through #DiveAgainstDebris. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Dead Green turtle, caught in the netting of a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD), Alphonse Island, Seychelles. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

The beach at Chirebon, Indonesia. Photo credit: Project Aware

Dive Downbelow, Richard Swann. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

This octopus had claimed this bottle of beer and PVC pipe as refuge. I just couldn't convince him to move out and find a more natural environment. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Entangled spider crab. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Look Close. The Fishing line is still hanging there and sliced the giant sponge. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation

Removing "mooring lines" tied to coral by inconsiderate boats at Soyak Island. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation


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Lorraine Chow is a freelance writer and reporter based in South Carolina.