Every day is World Oceans Day for Sea Cleaners

Publish Date : 01 Jun 2023
001 Hayden Smith
Captain Hayden Smith (in the Sea Cleaners T-shirt) and volunteers from Hawaiian Airlines clean up Henderson creek in West Auckland.

Our oceans are suffocating under a tide of rubbish, and knowing the size of the problem can make many of us feel that our clean-up contributions are too small. But when World Oceans Day rolls around on 8 June, Sea Cleaners founder Captain Hayden Smith would like us all to reflect on the little things we can do to help save our seas.

Hayden launched the maritime litter collection organisation Sea Cleaners in 2002. Back then, no one was really aware of the extent to which rubbish – particularly plastic waste – was affecting our oceans, and Hayden simply wanted to help keep the waters around Tāmaki Makaurau clean. 

Through Sea Cleaners, he engaged communities to help and started to raise awareness about waste in our waterways. During Sea Cleaners’ 21 years, knowledge has increased about the scale of the problem, so Hayden says we should treat every day like it’s World Oceans Day.

“Think about what you do with your waste,” he says. “If you see something on the ground, pick it up and put it in a bin, because every stormwater drain leads to the sea.”

Sea Cleaners has collected 14.6 million litres of rubbish since 2002 – that’s enough to fill around 488 shipping containers – and has coordinated more than 167,000 hours of volunteer support. It receives funding from local trusts, international partners and Auckland Council’s waste minimisation fund.

Sea Cleaners boat along Tamaki River.

Sea Cleaners boat along Tamaki River.

There are now six boats operating in Northland, Manukau Harbour, Waitematā Harbour and Canterbury, and new partnerships, involving a number of recyclers, help Sea Cleaners deal with the litter it collects. 

Northland Waste and Green Gorilla help dispose of general waste, Auckland Council transfer stations help with recycling tyres, while marine farm equipment like mussel buoys are returned to farming cooperatives. Sea Cleaners also recently launched an initiative that sees South Auckland company Future Post receive plastics to turn into farming fence posts and garden beds.

The contributions from others help Hayden and the team to stay hopeful about the future.

“Every day we have new volunteers turning up, we have new sponsors coming on board to help advance our efforts and we can only do what we can do. We’ve found ourselves in some horrific debris fields, and every time we just get started, and collect what we can,” Hayden says. “Seeing so many people constantly putting their hands up to help is a true inspiration for me and our entire team.”

For more information and to volunteer with Sea Cleaners, click here.

A Royal New Zealand Navy event on the upper Tamaki River.

A Royal New Zealand Navy event on the upper Tamaki River.

Back to News