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Divers Compete to Clean Catalina Island Harbor

Each year, scuba divers search the harbor of Catalina Island off the California coast in a special competition. The annual harbor cleanup helps the environment and offers divers a chance to search for underwater treasures.

The divers come in small sailing ships and big ferry boats, amid the tourists who arrive at Catalina Island each weekend.

Danny Piper of Catalina Conservancy Divers says they typically bring up 2,700 kilograms of trash, and occasional treasures. He says divers compete with each other.

"For some people, it's all about finding the most unique item, whether it's an old bottle, whether it's a watch, and it's a competition between them," said Danny Piper. "For some people, it's just a fun day out in the water."

Mike Dreyfus had a find after 30 minutes in the harbor.

"It looks like a buoy holder," said Mike Dreyfus. "It's been down there a while. A pretty nice little find for trash."

Ruth and Lawrence Harris show their booty from the harbor.

"He found a pair of sunglasses. I found this very lovely work of art down here, nice and tar covered," said Ruth. "A bunch of golf balls. Some trash, some cigarette butts, golf balls. We left the golf balls down there, though. Next dive."

Gregory Sorenson, a diver and computer engineer, is a volunteer official for the competition. He looks over items taken from the harbor, including a mobile telephone.

"A Treo phone, a Blackberry," said Gregory Sorenson. "We have several good Coke bottles. A lot of good wine. A lot of good beer still left. Several good wines over there."

For more than 500 divers who joined in the clean-up, there were raffles and prizes to be won. One person got a custom-painted scuba diving tank.

Jill Boivin says this 25th annual clean-up has netted less garbage than usual, which shows the volunteer effort is working.

"If you just look out at this beautiful harbor, you'll see the results of 25 years worth of effort and we'll continue to do so as long as they'll let us," said Gregory Sorenson.

Robert Newman, a rocket scientist at Vandenberg Air Force base and a diver in his spare time, says the annual event reminds the public not to throw their trash into the ocean.

"Hopefully that triggers in their mind, oh, I'd better not throw that overboard or just kick it off the dock," said Robert Newman. "They hopefully will put it in the trash instead of throwing it in the water, where it doesn't belong."

He says the divers help keep this spot a pristine and romantic weekend get-away.