South Florida

SWAG on 6: Conor Zimmerman's Quest to Clean Up Ocean

He’s at home on his high school campus, but to see Conor Zimmerman in his element, you need to get wet.

“Diving is really relaxing to me, it’s kind of my outlet,” Conor said, explaining his passion for underwater exploration and now, conservation.

Conor started a movement called “The Extra Catch.” He’s taking the age-old beach cleanup concept out onto the water and down onto the coral reefs of South Florida and the Bahamas.

“It’s a request to people who love the ocean that when you’re on the water and you see some trash, pick up that trash to be disposed of properly,” Conor said. “Growing up in South Florida I’ve always had a passion for the ocean, my family loves the ocean, and I found it really upsetting when I’d go to the beach and it would be littered with trash, I’d be out on the water and there’d be debris in the water.”

Those formative experiences led Conor, a straight-A senior at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, to do something about the overwhelming ocean pollution problem. His website,, has videos and pictures showing Conor removing fishing nets from the reefs and debris from the beach. The next step was to get his peers and his brother involved in the effort.

“That got me into the ocean as well so I obviously love the ocean and then I just followed his movement, and it’s very inspiring,” said Catherine Conklin, a classmate at Pine Crest, who credits Conor with enlightening her about the perilous state of the oceans.

“He’s really had a deep caring for the ocean,” Ryan Zimmerman, Conor’s younger brother and also a Pine Crest student, chimed in. “Whenever he’d see trash he’d always pick it up, whenever he’d see issues about pollution he’d really take it to the heart and that really inspired me because he really cared about the environment, cared about the community since we were growing up.”

Talk to the faculty and they’ll tell you Conor sets an example, even at a school full of achievers.

“He’s just the type of kid that breeds enthusiasm for his passion,” said Joseph Walters, Head of the Pine Crest Upper School. “So I do think it inspires other people to get out there and do something small, do something big, but do something to make a difference.”

For Conor, this project doesn’t end in high school. He plans on being an ocean advocate for the rest of his life and says The Extra Catch isn’t going away.

“That is the goal, like inspire other people and get people aware of the issues the ocean is facing right now,” Conor said.

From climate change to chemical pollution, the planet’s oceans are threatened in many ways. Trash dumped at sea isn’t just ugly, it kills turtles, dolphins, whales and other wildlife. Conor knows alone, he accomplishes a little, but a lot can be done if more people get involved.

“Just take the time to get that piece of trash that you see, it’s something small but if everyone does it then it adds up,” Conor explains.

It’s a simple but effective message from a young man who walks the walk, and swims the swim.

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