Cleaner Seabeds


Objective: Remove underwater marine litter & stranded fishing gear from the sea of Sri Lanka

According to a recent survey conducted by National Aquatic Research Agency (NARA), 80% of the seabed in the Western Province of Sri Lanka has been deemed polluted. With over 25% of Sri Lanka’s population living in close proximity of the coast of the island, much of the household and industrial waste leads its way to the ocean. Less than 15% of the waste and litter which enters the sea floats while the remaining sinks to the bottom of the sea. The initial resting place for much of the plastic and other marine litter is the Euphotic level (upto 200m depth) where debris and litter accumulate within natural reefs, seagrass meadows, shipwrecks, corals and sandy seabed. Due to the accumulation, many of the marine species natural habitats have been threatened due to the loss of habitat space, increase of the acidic level of the water, dispersion of microplastic and microfiber, and consumption of plastic and other waste mistakenly.

Stranded fishing gear has caused various challenges to the marine environment, reefs and marine animals. An estimated 41% of turtles within the sea of Sri Lanka gets entangled in stranded ghost fishing nets. Nylon and Polyester based plastic nets are responsible for entangling and destroying other sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs which are critically endangered in Sri Lanka and causing harm to multiple charismatic and keystone marine species along with crustaceans, fish and seabirds.


During the first pilot phase of the expedition conducted by The Pearl Protectors indicate that most of the underwater pollution is seen trapped within and along the reefs and buoyantly floating on the sandy seabed. Marine litter and stranded fishing gear age varies from 3 weeks to a decade while the pilot expedition also revealed that the majority of the underwater marine litter within the Western Province of Sri Lanka contains plastic bags, ghost/stranded fishing nets/wire, food wrapping/sachets, PET bottles, discarded apparel and tin cans. Additionally, surgical masks, yogurt cups, plastic straws, lunch sheets and gunny bags.

As efforts are underway to enhance waste management strategies in Sri Lanka while regulating certain single use plastic items by the Central Environment Authority (CEA) such as sachets, plastic straws, cotton buds, etc. Greater importance can be shifted towards removing marine litter from the seabed and reefs of Sri Lanka. As the 1st phase of the cleanup efforts, The Pearl Protectors initiated the ‘Cleaner Seabed’s for Sri Lanka’ volunteer dive cleaning expedition. During the initial phase, 160kg of stranded fishing gear and marine litter were collected.

Volunteers of The Pearl Protectors who have received PADI certification will engage in the cleaning efforts across the shallow sea’s (upto 18m) of Sri Lanka where larger portion of underwater marine litter is contained. The 3rd phase of the expedition will consist of nine underwater cleanup efforts with the addition of acquiring cleaning equipment and creating awareness on the damage. The duration of the 3rd phase will be 1 year based on monsoonal patterns of Sri Lanka.

Participating volunteer divers will receive special briefing and training on guidelines and best practices on collecting underwater marine litter. The litter collection guidelines will follow international standards while maintaining all safety precautions.

Collected marine litter and stranded fishing gear will be weighed, audited, segregated and handed over to upcycling, recycling waste collectors and incineration waste collectors.

Project Impact Goal:

  • Collection of an estimated 2000kg of marine litter & stranded fishing gear
  • Remove underwater marine litter from sensitive marine ecosystems
  • Auditing and segregation of collected litter
  • Conduct public awareness on plastic and marine pollution
  • Advocate towards reducing plastic waste leakage to the ocean
  • Advocate towards better policy & enforcement on stranding of fishing gear
  • Upcycling and value addition of the collected fishing gearVolunteer Participating Criteria: PADI Open water divers and above certified divers. Maximum of 12 divers per cleaning session.

Cleaning Depth: 9m to 18m
Project Initiated by: The Pearl Protectors

Funding for this project was made available through a partnership between Depeche Mode and Hublot supported via the Memento Mori Tour charity partnership with the Conservation Collective.

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