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Help Improve Our Oceans

7 Sep

Written by Megan Denny

National Geographic estimates 5.25 trillion pieces of trash end up in the ocean every year. That’s about 700 pieces of trash for every man, woman and child on the planet. And, a lot of that rubbish is plastic. The volume and types of trash in the ocean affects all marine creatures, from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales.

As a dive professional, you’re uniquely qualified to help turn the tide toward a healthier ocean. There are many ways to make a difference including participating in year-round Project AWARE® Dive Against Debris® surveys or organizing a special event on Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day. Here are a few suggestions and examples of what other PADI® Pros are doing for International Coastal Cleanup Day this September.

Saturday, 16 September

International Coastal Cleanup Day is an ideal way to do important work for the local community and raise awareness about your business. Here are some tips for running a successful cleanup event:

  • Get the word out – Send a short press release to local news organisations (templates and tools are available on the PADI Pros’ Site).
  • Stock up – Encourage divers to get equipped with mesh collection bags, knives and gloves. Invite topside participants to bring gardening gloves, but bring extra gloves for those who forget.
  • Buddy up – Invite local environmental organizations to participate and help get the word out.
  • Create incentives – Jack’s Diving Locker in Hawai’i offers a free rental tank and half off rental gear to divers participating in their shoreline and underwater cleanup. Their 2017 event takes place on International Coastal Cleanup Day at the Kailua-Kona Pier from 9am – noon.
  • Document your activities: create a recap video or slideshow to share on social media and with local news outlets.

Take Action Year Round

You don’t need to wait for International Coastal Cleanup Day to take action. Through Dive Against Debris surveys, divers can remove debris throughout the year at any dive location across the globe. If you dive at the same site frequently, why not adopt it? Project AWARE provides a suite of survey tools and a yearly report on the state of your local dive site. Simply conduct Dive Against Debris surveys once a month and report the marine debris you find. Receive special recognition for your efforts in addition to the feel-good benefits of helping the planet and local community. Learn more at: projectaware.org/adoptadivesite.

Make Good Choices

While out of the water there are things you can do to support a clean and healthy ocean.

Say “no” to single-use plastics – Especially items like cups, straws and cutlery. Choose reusable snack bags over plastic ones, and switch to biodegradable trash bags. Plastic production has skyrocketed from 7 million tons in 1950 to almost 300 million tons today. What’s even scarier: most of that plastic is still around. By reducing plastic consumption we can reduce the plastic pollution in our ocean. Here’s a humorous video you can share online to encourage friends to avoid disposable plastics.

Donate to Project AWARE – Challenge friends, family and your student divers to do the same by creating a fundraising campaign. Get started at org/support. You can also peruse fundraising campaigns from fellow ocean-lovers at Finathon.org.

ReMember: Support Project AWARE with your PADI Member Renewal

25 Oct

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As a PADI® Professional you play a critical role in leading action locally to protect our ocean planet. Your support joins together with Project AWARE’s wider global dive community to make united and strong conservation actions.

This PADI Member Renewal season ReMember to support ocean protection with a donation to Project AWARE®.

Your renewed commitment gives the ocean a voice. It helps Project AWARE secure important policy advancements to keep shark and ray populations healthy and protects marine life from the onslaught of marine debris.

“There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will?” – John Cronin, PADI Co-Founder

Project AWARE, PADI’s environmental partner, is dedicated to mobilizing PADI Pros like you with the tools and resources to take action locally. Together we can advance the health of the ocean for future generations and our industry.

Your donation supports hands-on citizen science, education and local marine conservation actions tailored for the dive community across the globe. Your donation helps Project AWARE continue its work and get results.

Go to the PADI Pros’ Site to update your credit or debit card details and add your donation* to support Project AWARE’s critical conservation work today! Or ask your Customer Service team how you can make a donation.

* Gifts of AU$25 or more received during PADI Member Renewals will receive a new limited edition Project AWARE silky shark mask strap pad as a special thank you for your renewed support.

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About Project AWARE

Project AWARE Foundation is a global movement of scuba divers protecting our ocean planet – one dive at a time. Focused on the critical issues of Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris, Project AWARE empowers thousands of divers in more than 180 countries to work together for a clean, healthy and abundant ocean planet. Project AWARE Foundation is a registered non-profit organization. www.projectaware.org

Perth Scuba on a Mission to Protect Our Dive Sites

29 Jun

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On Sunday 19th June, Perth Scuba’s very own Manta Club embarked on a mission to protect one of their local Dive Sites, Ammuntion (Ammo) Jetty.

Inspired by Project AWARE’s Adopt a Dive Site campaign, the club have ‘adopted,’ Ammo Jetty to ensure it’s protection for future divers.

The campaign encourages dive centres around the world to conduct ongoing local monitoring to protect their favourite underwater playgrounds. Dive Centres or Dive Clubs that Adopt a Dive Site conduct regular surveys of marine debris and submit the data they collect so it can be used to increase debris removal efforts and shape policy changes.

Manta Club kicked off their dive with a hearty BBQ and hopes that the meteorologists who predicted 70% chance of rain would be wrong. Under the water they were surprised to find no fishing chairs, but still the usual suspects remained – bricks, old bait and fishing line and of course a few beer bottles.

Thanks everyone at Perth Scuba and all members of Manta Club, who’ve committed to protecting Ammo Jetty and good luck on your mission to Dive Against Debris.

If you’d like to Adopt a Dive Site, visit the Project AWARE website.

Project AWARE Divers Pledge to Protect their Underwater Playgrounds

4 May

Project AWARE Divers Pledge to Protect their Underwater Playgrounds

On Earth Day, April 22, Project AWARE® announced its latest initiative supporting the fight against marine debris: Adopt a Dive Site™. Harnessing the unique underwater skill set of the scuba diving community, Adopt a Dive Site urges scuba diving leaders around the globe – including dive instructors, dive centres and resorts – to engage in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of our underwater playgrounds.

Participants of Adopt a Dive Site commit to carry out monthly Dive Against Debris surveys, reporting types and quantities of marine debris found underwater each month from the same location.

Adopt a Dive Site sits within Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris and empowers scuba divers to remove marine debris from the ocean and report data on the types, quantities and locations of materials collected.

Since the program’s launch in 2011, more than 25,000 divers have participated in Dive Against Debris in more than 50 countries around the world, reporting almost 600,000 pieces of trash. This incredible effort has saved the lives of many ocean species and helped make our ocean cleaner, but the unfortunate reality is that there is still much more trash in the ocean, largely unreported. The Adopt a Dive Site initiative aims to close this data gap and ignite a new wave of ocean stewardship and optimism.

Adopt a Dive Site participants’ local, repeated surveys will help improve the health of ocean ecosystems. But more importantly, they will provide valuable, much-needed information about marine debris to help inform policy change.

“By targeting specific areas with repeat surveys, we’ll be able to further bridge the gap in knowledge of quantity and types of marine debris found under our ocean waves,” says Joanne Marston, Campaign Manager, Project AWARE.

“What’s more,” adds Joanne, “based on the data we receive, we’ll actively seek solutions to some of the localised waste management problems communities’ face. It’s the beginning of an exciting wave of change as we mobilise our passionate dive community to take ownership of the sites they frequent. Together our movement is leading ocean protection from the frontlines.”

Project AWARE is thrilled to welcome its new Adopt a Dive Site leaders, dive centres and resorts and kick off a new wave of stewardship. Together, Adopt a Dive Site participants will help build a strong and vibrant community of activists dedicated to the fight against marine debris.

To learn more, visit www.projectaware.org/adoptadivesite

Brisbane Dive Against Debris™ with Totally Wild Film Crew

30 Mar

Written by PADI Regional Manager, Hans Ullrich.

As divers we all know the importance of healthy reefs and that is why I always enjoy jumping in the ocean when one of my dive centers has organized a clean-up.

I recently had the pleasure of having Hannah Pragnell-Raasch from Project AWARE visit Brisbane to see key supporters of Project AWARE and to assist with the Dive Against Debris™ surveys with Go Dive Brisbane. I picked up Hannah from Brisbane airport on Friday morning and went straight to Brisbane Dive Academy to see Mick Wheatley. Brisbane Dive Academy is a 100% AWARE Partner – kindly making a monthly donation to Project AWARE so that  each of Brisbane Dive Academy’s students receives the limited edition Project AWARE certification card. Hannah also met up with Jess Scionti, one of the Brisbane Dive Academy’s PADI Instructors and avid Project AWARE supporter.

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We then headed to see Shona and Pete at Devocean Dive on the Gold Coast. Shona and Pete organize regular clean-ups and do a great job in the Gold Coast Seaway. Hannah explained the importance of submitting their data online through Dive Against Debris so that their great efforts are not lost and contribute to long term change, which ultimately will help us return to an ocean free of debris.

Hannah then had the opportunity to catch up with Jon Doughty – PADI Instructor and a 100% AWARE Partner before traveling across the border to see PADI Course Director Pete Comerford of Tweed Seasports, having a good chat about what Pete’s doing with Project AWARE and his divers.

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We drove to Manly (Brisbane) were we stayed overnight so we only had to walk 100 meters to the Go Dive boat. We met at 6.00am and Mark and the crew were already in full swing setting up the boat for the 2 Dive Against Debris survey dives. There were 16 divers signed up and we had Totally Wild from Channel 10 on board as well. Mark Robertson, owner of Go Dive Brisbane organized the dives well on social media and we were ready to roll. After all divers were present, Hannah conducted a Dive Against Debris briefing and shortly after the boat and safety briefing, we departed at 7.00am to Tangalooma. We got into our buddy pairs, armed with clean up bags and conducted out first dive. The visibility was awesome and there was a lot of marine life on the site, Hannah and I were lucky enough to come across a sea turtle at the end of the dive. Back on the boat, Hannah and Steffen took charge of logging all the debris using the Dive Against Debris Data Card and we enjoyed great weather, gummy worms and chocolate chip cookies. Besides lots of fishing line and hooks, we also had a spear, anchor and a working underwater light.

After a good dive brief we went on our way to dive number two, navigating our way around some of the wrecks. Lots and lots of fishing line and sinkers were stuck on the wrecks and even a big fishing rod and reel was laying in the sand. Hannah removed the fishing line from the rod but we left the rod and reel as it was encrusted in marine life. Back on board the divers had brought up a lot more debris this time including several anchors, lots of bottles and a plate. Fishing line, hooks and sinkers were the dominant items removed and reported. Once again the debris was recorded and when we got back to Manly, it was disposed of responsibly.

Participating in Dive Against Debris surveys empowers divers to contribute to short term change through the immediate removal of harmful debris but, through submitting the data online to Project AWARE, you are contributing to lasting, long term change. The data collected through Dive Against Debris is critical in providing policymakers with quantitative evidence about the marine debris the lurks beneath the surface – an issue that has been previously disregarded as out of sight, out of mind. Project AWARE works closely with Partners, sharing the divers’ voice and the underwater perspective of this messy problem. Divers play an absolutely essential role in addressing the underwater marine debris issue – we are the only ones with the skills to go underwater and collect this information.

It was a great day out on the reef and I like to thank not only Mark and the Go Dive crew for their support of Project AWARE and keeping the ocean clean, but also all the participants that were on the boat participating in Dive Against Debris surveys on Easter weekend.

One Turtle at a time

24 Jan

Tranq3Visiting PADI members together with Sheridan Hatcher from Marketing is always full on going from dive center to dive center. Our main goal during these visits is to improve our 5 Star members online/social media/web exposure and any other ways we can assist our members. In Vanuatu to some extent these members are still dealing with the aftermath of the cyclone that hit Port Villa almost one year ago. However, sometimes on these marketing/P5M trips we run into something that is unexpected. On our visit to Tranquillity Island, a PADI 5 Star Dive Center the dive shop managers, Toby and Erica asked us if we wanted to see the Turtle Sanctuary that is based on the island.

Tranquillity Island Resort, with a lot of effort by its owner, Owen Drew, for the last ten years or so has proudly run a voluntary Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Program, based right at the resort. They have upwards of 300 juvenile turtles that are raised from hatchlings until they reach 1 year old, before they tag and release them into the ocean.  To date they released over 1200 healthy Hawksbills!  The project works with The South Pacific Environmental Program (SPREP) and the Vanuatu government but is voluntary and apart from looking after the turtles, Tranquility  runs an ongoing public awareness program. The tagging has so far shown that some of the turtles have migrated to Fiji, North of Vanuatu and the East coast of Australia. SPREP  maintains a data base for the tagging of all turtles in the Pacific Islands

Hawksbill Turtles are considered critically endangered, meaning the species faces a very high risk of total extinction. The first year of their lives is the most perilous, many get snatched by hungry predators before even tasting the ocean. Humans, however, are the greatest threat. Plastic waste chocking our oceans; unsustainable fishing methods; propeller-damage from speedboats, jet skis  and other vessels are amongst the key killers of sea turtles. Not only are they considered the most endangered species of turtle, Hawksbills rank as the 4th most endangered species on the planet according to the WWF, behind the Amur Leopard, the Black Rhino, and the Cross-River Gorilla.

What a great project run by a team that know their stuff too. Pretty much all of our PADI members contribute something to the environment and that is something to be very proud of. Over the past two decades of underwater conservation we’ve learned that divers are true leaders in ocean protection. We’re ocean heroes numbering in the millions across the globe. We believe together our actions will make a huge impact and will help to rescue the ocean. Weather you take fishing line out of the ocean during your dives, take some trash off the beach or volunteer at a turtle sanctuary as divers we care about our environment and protect our ocean planet – one dive at the time.

Hans Ullrich, PADI Regional Manager

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Helping change the view of sharks…

29 Sep

As divers we have the unique opportunity to have a voice for marine creatures who don’t have one. Most of us do our part for marine conservation but not many are as committed as the Friends for Sharks crew.

Shark enthusiasts Kathryn and Nicholas took a year off from their day to day routine and created Friends for Sharks which is a marine conservation cause working to support charities Project Aware and Shark Trust and increase worldwide awareness of the plight of sharks.

Kathryn and Nicholas decided to spend one year on the road and have recently spent 6 months in New Zealand where they spoke to approximately 6500 people across 78 events. New Zealand PADI Regional Manager Jen Clent recently interviewed them about their trip so far.

Their aim:

  • Use our voices to promote marine conservation and increase worldwide awareness of the threats to sharks and rays
  • Educate and encourage people to become Friends for Sharks themselves and protect the oceans around them
  • Inspire people to be the change they want to see in the world
  • Reach audiences worldwide, including people of all ages and social backgrounds
  • Raise money for nominated charities
  • Conduct voluntary work across the globe to contribute to the local communities we visit

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  1. When did you decide to pack up and spend a year on the road?

Friends for Sharks was born on August 28th 2014. Kathryn had just suffered a split disk earlier in the month and was confined to bed. Our work was seasonal and on a boat, so not only was Kathryn unable to work, but my work was also ending soon. Kathryn came up with the idea of us spending a year travelling to promote shark conservation as a way to employ our time productively as she recovered from her back injury.

  1. What did you set out to achieve?

The aim of Friends for Sharks is two-fold. Firstly and most importantly in our mind, to educate people as to the importance and plights of sharks and to encourage a desire to help sharks by developing an emotional connection through story telling. Secondly we raise money throughout the Tour in support of two charities: The Shark Trust and Project AWARE. 

  1. Where does your passion for sharks come from?

K: I’ve loved sharks for as long as I can remember. I took a shark book in to school for show-and-tell at the age of four. It was a classic 80’s book: shark attacks, teeth, blood etc. It made the rest of the children cry for which I was made to stand in the corner! I’ve always stood up for the underdog and at that moment sharks really seemed to have few friends.

N: Sharks have been a growing passion since I developed a love of the oceans at a young age. They’re an iconic group of creatures with fearsome reputations that from my experiences are entirely unfounded. As a diver, the more sharks I saw, the more I appreciated their grace and beauty. I don’t think there are many people who can spend much time with sharks and not develop a passion for them to some extent.

  1. Where have you spent your time on the road so far?

We started around Cornwall in the UK at the start of 2015. The trip really got going after 6 days in London at the end of February when we then flew to Vancouver for a week. This was followed by two weeks in Rarotonga the first of which was spent doing events, then enjoying a week off to recover from the previous 6 months of planning and organising. The bulk of our tour has been spent in New Zealand – 3.5 months travelling around the South Island, then 2.5 months working our way up from Wellington to Auckland.

  1. Where to after New Zealand?

We are currently in Melbourne, Australia, for 2 weeks where we have a couple of events, but are also enjoying a break with family. The next portion of our tour takes us to Fiji, Cambodia and Thailand. We have teemed up with a group called Projects Abroad who have invited us to spend time with them to share our knowledge and skills with their marine projects and local communities in those three countries. This will take us up to just before Christmas and the end of our Tour.

  1. What has been the thing that surprised you most on your trip so far?

We have talked to all ages from kindergarten through to retirement homes and what we’ve found fascinating is that the youngest children have the greatest love and fascination with sharks. There is almost no fear at all. From around the age of 6 onwards, more people mention being scared of sharks despite the fact that next to none of those people have seen sharks in the wild. While we did expect that to be the case to an extent, we were surprised by just how little fear was expressed by the youngest children and it is clear that as children grow up, the media they encounter – and no doubt warnings from parents and others – has a huge impact on how they view sharks. We are in essence bringing up another ‘Jaws generation’. 

  1. How many people have you delivered your message to?

While we’ve had to guesstimate numbers at our larger events, our current figure stands at approximately 6500 people across 78 events. We have also raised close to £8000 so far!

  1. What do you believe are the top 3 misconceptions people have about sharks?

I think the most common ‘I had no idea sharks…’ comment we’ve received from our talks has been about how calm and characterful they are.

Close in line would be beliefs around shark attacks and how they’re out to get us when really all they do is ignore us or occasionally come close to see what we are.

Finally, a common misconception is linking old to stupid. Sharks have been around for hundreds of millions of years and many people equate old to primitive, and that to stupidity. They tend to believe that sharks are essentially tubes with teeth, governed by their sense of smell and will eat anything they can get hold of. The reality is that they have considerable intelligence and often surprise with their adaptability.

  1. What advice would you give to the Dive professionals to assist in changing the publics opinion of sharks?

Share stories. We’ve found that the best way to engage people’s interest is by describing our encounters with sharks. Not only does this educate and correct the misconceptions listed above, but it’s the stories that people will remember. I would also hope that any business fortunate enough to operate where sharks are common, uses them as a draw not for ‘high adrenaline, scary shark encounters’, but promotes the grace, calm and beauty of these animals and takes the chance to educate their clients as to the true nature of sharks. It’s these people sharing their experiences with their friends who will spread the message still further. 

  1. Would you do it again?

No. The experience has been incredible but also very tough. If we were taken back to where we were just over a year ago knowing how we feel about it, we would definitely do it all again due to the huge amounts we’ve learned both about ourselves and new skills, but we won’t be doing a second World Tour.

  1. Where to next?

Once the tour is complete Friends for Sharks will likely go in to hibernation for a short while. We’re moving from the UK to New Zealand and have to find jobs and set up new lives. Once we’re settled though we aim to continue the shark work with schools and similar in our local area. We’d also like to develop some trips combining shark diving with evening lectures so if you might be interested in joining us for those in the future, join our newsletter and social media to keep up to date!

If you would like to donate to their cause or get involved in any conservation events there are always many things we as divers can do, simply check out Project Aware or contact your Regional Manager or local Dive Centre to find out how.