Yet mention a sinking a mothballed battleship to create an artificial reef and suddenly the attitude changes to concern for the environment.
To alleviate those attitudes and recruit people to help with their efforts, the organization California Ships to Reef will be hosting a meeting on Saturday, June 28, at Marina Village, 1936 Quivira Way, at 1 p.m. (a room location will be posted).
"There are a lot of people who do not know what we do," said Dick Long, an active member of the organization and local leader in creating artificial reefs with sunken ships. "Particularly those people who are concerned with the environment."
According to Long, there's a perception that they're doing nothing more than dumping twisted, rusty metal into the ocean at taxpayers expense.
"We (California Ships to Reef) do not want to put trash in the ocean," he said. "The organization is seeking people who care about the ocean and want things to be done right."
As past president of the San Diego Oceans Foundation, Long said when it comes time to retire a military ship there are only three options.
"The Navy can use them for target practice or you can scrap them," he said. "Or you can reef them."
All three can carry a steep price in the millions of dollars, primarily to prepare them for any of the three options. A large expense goes toward eliminating hazardous materials and chemicals.
"Reefing" a ship creates longer term benefits than the other two options according to Long who served as the Chairman of Project Yukon, which created a reef two miles west of Mission Beach by sinking the decommissioned Canadian warship HMCS Yukon in 2000, believes part of the challenge is changing the perception of what people see when a ship is still above water to when it is sunk.
"Where the Yukon was sunk to create an artificial reef there was nothing there," he explained. "Now there is a thriving eco-system. The Yukon is covered with life. Anything which stands vertically off the ocean floor like the Yukon is going to attract fish and other sea life like crazy."
Long further notes the Yukon now generates revenue for the City of San Diego.
"Ten percent of the price paid by every person who takes a commercial boat ride to see the Yukon location goes to our local government," he said. "Currently this amounts to about $45,000 a year which goes directly to the City of San Diego."
The sinking of the Yukon and subsequent result was so successful, according to Long, it has become a model of how the process should go.
"Today almost anywhere in the world when a ship is put down to create an artificial reef, the procedures used are those which were developed for the Yukon," he said.
For those interested in attending the meeting, Long said the organization needs assistance in a variety of areas.
"We need people who can do internet research and write articles on what we are doing and why," he said, "We need those who are good at public speaking. We have committees someone can serve on."
Long knows from his many experiences the way to change perception is to directly confront the concerns.
"We want to be challenged (at the meeting) and asked questions because then we can share what we are doing and why," Long said. "People flush their toilets every day and have no idea where it all goes. We will explain what happens when a ship is put in the water to create an artificial reef."
For more information about Ships to Reefs call (619) 742-1979 or visit www.cs2r.org and www.sdoceans.org.