4 Tips for Hosting AWARE Week Activities

Written by Tara Bradley

In celebration of AWARE Week, a co-branded PADI® and Project AWARE® initiative aimed at empowering more divers to look after the underwater world, PADI dive operators and shops around the world will join together in a global movement for ocean protection by running conservation-minded events and activities from 15-23 September.

Whether it’s becoming a debris activist, saying no to single-use plastics or making responsible seafood choices, no action is too small to protect and preserve our ocean planet. AWARE Week provides you with the tools and inspiration to encourage positive actions for the health of fragile underwater environments, fins on and fins off.

Interested in planning an AWARE Week event in your area? Here are some ways to get ready and bring together your student divers, friends and family to act for change in your local community.

  1. Get ready to teach Project AWARE specialty courses: If you’re not a Dive Against Debris® or AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Specialty Instructor, apply for your rating today. One hundred percent (that’s right, 100%!) of your application fee is donated to Project AWARE. Not a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor yet? No worries, PADI Divemasters can apply to teach the newly revised Project AWARE Specialty course after taking a Project AWARE Specialty Instructor Training course from a PADI Course Director.
  2. Mark your calendar and start promoting your AWARE Week activities:
    Download AWARE Week social banners to spread the word. Create a Facebook event and use the #AWAREWeek hashtag on Instagram and Twitter to encourage participation and join the online conversation.
  3. Make your dives count and help clean the ocean: If you want to make your dives count for ocean protection during AWARE Week, conduct Dive Against Debris surveys. Download your Dive Against Debris survey toolkit, which includes the must-have materials you need to successfully plan and conduct a survey dive including tips to choose your survey site.
  4. Display the AWARE Week video in your local shop and gather interest for the Project AWARE specialty courses: Dive Against Debris Specialty, AWARE Shark Conservation Diver Specialty, and the newly revised Project AWARE Specialty. Ask people visiting your dive shop to leave their contact details if they’re interested in taking part in AWARE Week. Closer to the date, send them an invitation to sign up for a Project AWARE specialty course during AWARE Week or to any other event you may organize, a club night, a fundraising challenge – you decide.

Whatever you do during AWARE Week, make it fun and make it count for ocean conservation. If your students complete a course during AWARE Week, make sure they receive the PADI limited edition card supporting Project AWARE’s conservation work, and use this opportunity to celebrate the beauty and wonders of the ocean!

From kids to seniors, non-divers to pros, we can all make a difference in our global community. Join the AWARE Week celebrations!

For more info or to download the AWARE Week Toolkit for help hosting an event in your area, visit the newly launched AWARE Week website.

Helping change the view of sharks…

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

06-Tauranga-03 Shark Papanui

  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.

Beneath the Waves with Project AWARE

beneath the waves project awareIn preparation for the Our Ocean 2015 international conference in Chile on October 5-6, US Secretary of State John Kerry has posed the question, “What will you do to protect the ocean?

Project AWARE’s answer? Taking action against trash through Dive Against Debris. Scuba divers everywhere are taking a stand against the onslaught of marine debris. With our underwater skill set, we’re uniquely positioned to shine light on what we see beneath the waves – the negative impacts of underwater debris on ocean ecosystems and wildlife.

Share your underwater marine debris photos on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BeneathTheWaves. Project AWARE will add them to their global “Beneath the Waves” photo collage to show decision-makers your underwater perspective and urge for long-term, global solutions to the marine debris issue.

We have just 30 days to show what lurks beneath the waves – share your photos of trash underwater today!

The Our Ocean 2015 conference aims to promote voluntary governmental and institutional commitments to care for the ocean. Over 400 political, academic and civil society figures as well as industry, philanthropy and nonprofit leaders will discuss solutions to topics such as illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, ocean acidification and climate change.

Through Dive Against Debris, Project AWARE divers remove and report marine debris found beneath the waves. The trash you remove during Dive Against Debris makes the ocean safer for marine life, and more importantly, the information you report helps inform policy change. Our Ocean 2015 offers divers the opportunity to use grassroots action to empower global change.

Finathon Team has their very own Great White Shark named in their honour!

Team TomahawkDown in the South Island of New Zealand are a group of enthusiastic PADI Dive Instructors with a huge passion for sharks. Every year they get on board and promote awareness and raise money for their protection and conservation as part of Dive Otago Ltd’s annual Project Aware Finathon. Their Finathon team name is Team Tomahawk.

Having recently spent a day diving with majestic Great White Sharks, the team were even more in awe of these creatures and began a campaign in the build up to their Finathon to spread the love of these animals to anyone who would listen.

Using their creative side the team made a series of hilarious short videos to enlighten folk as well as educating people about shark statistics and facts. They also spoke with various groups to educate them on the plight of sharks both in New Zealand and globally.

OW Students get Shark Awareness info

I recently asked Chris Zinsli (PADI Staff Instructor and one might say the driving force behind Team Tomahawk) for a brief history of how there came to be a Great White Shark now named Tomahawk. Here is what he said:

“Team Tomahawk is no stranger to Project AWARE’s Finathon, & has been participating since the ideas inception in 2013. This was the third event for myself and the lads, & we completed our challenges after raising over $800 U.S dollars at the end of a legendary fun filled campaign to help the sharks of the world. As promised we completed a one minute breath hold for every $10 raised and clocked up some personal best breath hold times in the event as follows . Chris 3:33 . Bernie 3:12 . Levi 3:08 .

We’ve achieved so much this year in terms of raising awareness for the plight of sharks in our small town of Dunedin, New Zealand … a town that still has a sense of anxiety regarding sharks given its large surfer population & even an ancient shark warning bell at one of our more popular beaches that was installed in the 1970’s after a series of shark sightings, when shark hysteria had peaked in the post “Jaws” years.

Educating Scouts on the plight of sharks

Our videos have given countless people a good laugh but with a solid environmental message (even though some lurk the fringe of sanity and sensibility), we have also shown sensible conversational movies such as Rob Stewarts “Sharkwater” to all our friends and family.
Team Tomahawk has been in the local paper, been interviewed on the local TV channels, made scientist and tv documentarian Riley Elliot laugh at our ridiculous “AWAREness” videos and also got some great news from the shark gurus (Warrick Lyon and Malcolm Francis) from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmosphere) about NZ shark statistics based on their studies, which turned out to not be the fire and brimstone reports the rest of the world’s shark populations are facing.

I would say our a crowning achievement was not the video where a lonely shark ends up dating a gorilla, but an even more special outcome for our efforts. We provided a lot of raw images and videos of Great White Sharks from the deep south of New Zealand to NIWA in the hope to help them with their research, and only asked one thing in return… If there was an unidentified shark within the footage, could it be called “Tomahawk” in recognition of the work we were trying to do in raising awareness for these amazing creatures.

Instructor Chris dressed as a shark

NIWA passed the footage and my request on to lead White Shark expert Clinton Duffy from the Department of Conservation who is in charge of cataloguing these amazing Apex predators. As fate would have it, Clinton contacted me mere hours before the Finathon to confirm that we had witnessed 10 individual Great Whites the day we spent with them. He also informed me that there was one mature male, an estimated 3.7m long who was unidentified, and had been given the alphanumeric code STWI-1435 … and was now officially named “Tomahawk”. Epic!  

Pictured here is Tomahawk. A permanent legacy of our Finathon campaign, and hopefully the start of an idea that a small group of individuals can make a difference that can benefit the oceans. Team Tomahawk has proven that no idea to help the oceans is a silly idea… and trust me.. we’ve still got plenty of silly ideas to convey our message to help our majestic ocean comrades. Watch this space :)”

Great White Shark Tomahawk

I would like to take this opportunity to say thanks Chris Zinsli, Bernard Lloyd and Levi Healey for their hard work and dedication to educating the public about why we should protect sharks and look forward to the next ‘silly’ idea from the team in the far south. Well done Team Tomahawk and Dive Otago!

If you would like to donate the team you can do so by visiting either of the pages below:

www.finathon.org/team/tomahawk or www.finathon.org/team/diveotago

World Oceans Day 2015: Project AWARE explains the Ugly Journey of our Trash

How does our trash make its way from land to sea? Project AWARE’s new animated infographic explains the ugly journey, and shines light on the dangers our litter poses to marine ecosystems and wildlife along the way. While the marine debris issue may at first appear daunting, there is hope! With our underwater skill set, the dive community is uniquely positioned to contribute to global solutions by participating in Dive Against Debris, Project AWARE’s year-round underwater debris removal and reporting program.

We all want a healthy ocean and healthy planet – join Project AWARE in the fight against marine debris – become a Debris Activist this World Oceans Day and all year long!

UglyJourneyofTrash_Infographic_webfinal

Our ocean is under siege. From everyday trash like plastic bags, food wrappers and drink bottles, to larger items like car batteries, kitchen appliances and fishing nets, our debris is entering the sea at an alarming rate. Our ocean has become a dumping ground.

Marine debris is not only unsightly, it’s dangerous to sea life, hazardous to human health, and costly to our economies. Marine animals can become entangled in debris or mistake small particles of trash for food – often with fatal results. Divers, swimmers and beachgoers can be directly harmed by encounters with debris or its toxins. And, the costs of plastic debris to marine ecosystems are estimated at 13 billion dollars a year. Better information about sources and impacts is extremely important to drive changes in infrastructure and waste management policies at all levels.

Who is responsible? All of us. Together we can help prevent and clear up this mess for a clean, healthy ocean planet.

Show your Dedication to Ocean Protection – Become a 100% AWARE Partner with Project AWARE

By Alexa Ward, Project AWARE Community Relations Specialist

Are you an instructor or dive centre that takes ocean protection to heart? We all want to keep our undersea world clean and healthy – not just for ourselves, but for the dive community, now and for future generations to come. If conservation is important to you and your business, consider becoming 100% AWARE.

Across the globe, PADI Instructors and Dive Centres are committing to ocean protection through 100% AWARE partnerships. 100% AWARE partners support a healthy and abundant ocean by making a donation to Project AWARE on behalf of each student that they certify through PADI PIC Online.* 100% AWARE partners’ ongoing contributions make a difference by providing vital funds to support Project AWARE’s two core areas of focus: marine debris prevention and shark and ray protection.

Project AWARE

Best of all students certified through a 100% AWARE partner will receive the Project AWARE version of their PADI certification card, so that they can proudly display their support and remember their positive experience with you! Divers value practices that protect the ocean and want to dive with instructors and dive centres that share their values – show them that you care!

Project AWARE

Ready to get started? Follow these easy steps to become a 100% AWARE Partner:

  • Get started by submitting your 100% AWARE partner agreement. Individual instructors and dive centres may apply. You have the option to donate $10 per certification card, or a flat donation of $250 per month.
  • Log into POL using the PADI member number on your 100% AWARE agreement and select your choice of preferred certification card.
  • That’s it! All your certifications will be automatically issued as AWARE cards without making a donation to process.

It’s easy to get started! Effortlessly support ocean protection with every certification – the benefits are endless! If you need any help along the way, Project AWARE is here to help. Simply contact Project AWARE’s Fundraising Specialist, Lauren Wiskerson at lauren.wiskerson@projectaware.org or click here to learn more.

*With the exception of EFR, Seal Team and Tec Rec.

Kick off #MyOceanChallenge this Endangered Species Day

myoceanchallengeAre you up for a challenge? Join the Endangered Species Day 2015 celebration by taking the My Ocean Challenge, Project AWARE’s new, exciting way to take action for ocean protection.

The challenges facing endangered marine species, big and small, have never been more pressing. With My Ocean Challenge, you can help tackle two of the biggest challenges faced by our ocean: marine debris and over-exploitation of sharks and rays.

Taking the My Ocean Challenge is a great way to raise awareness about endangered marine species and raise funds critical to protecting our ocean and its wildlife.

From running a marathon to baking cakes, participating in a sponsored abseil event or donating your birthday, the funds raised through your My Ocean Challenge fuel the grassroots action and policy change necessary to ensure a clean, healthy ocean planet for us today and for future generations.

On Endangered Species Day, May 15 – or starting any day you choose – go to projectaware.org/fundraise to kick off your My Ocean Challenge. A bike ride, skydive or taking part in a sponsored bungee jump – the possibilities are endless! My Ocean Challenge is all about challenging yourself to help protect the ocean. The only limit is your imagination!

Our ocean is facing tough challenges. Your challenge this Endangered Species Day and beyond: Fundraise for its protection.

Take Project AWARE’s #MyOceanChallenge

*Beginning on Endangered Species Day 2015, the first ten fundraisers to raise $500 or more will also be awarded with a Quikpod selfie stick so you can show the world how you took on the challenge!

Earth Day: It’s Our Turn to Lead

project aware earth day our turn to lead
April 22nd 2015 marks the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day. This year, under the theme “It’s Our Turn to Lead” the Project AWARE movement will once again lead efforts to tackle marine debris from beneath the surface of the waves.

We know only too well the devastating impacts marine debris has on ocean wildlife. And we see this first hand. In fact through Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, divers are truly able to lead efforts and actions to collect, remove and report data on what lies beneath the ocean surface. It’s a unique perspective, a different view point from the “out of sight – out of mind” view.

So this Earth Day let’s join together to show the world how divers are leading the fight against debris.

  1. Lead and Teach

Get the rating to teach Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris Specialty. From planning the dive to reporting the debris data, the Dive Against Debris Distinctive Specialty prepares students to participate and support regular Dive Against Debris surveys, join other surveys, or, in case of more experienced divers, to start surveys of their own.

All applications received before 30th April will receive a Dive Against Debris mesh bag absolutely free! Apply direct to PADI today and they will donate your instructor application fee direct to Project AWARE.

All course materials can be downloaded free of charge from www.projectaware.org.

  1. Organize

Add your Dive Against Debris action to the Action Zone at www.projectaware.org/action-zone and invite your local community to take part. Be a leader and raise awareness locally.

Divers are leading the fight against marine debris every day and at every dive. Stay tuned to Project AWARE this April as we celebrate Earth Day and recognize Dive Against Debris heroes like you.

Dive Centre’s work together to clean up their local dive sites before Earth Day 2015

Trailer full of rubbish On March 1st Boating Marlborough Dive Centre (recently renamed Waikawa Dive Centre) in Picton, New Zealand organised an underwater clean up of the sea floor in the western arm of Double Cove. This was brought about by Kate Trayling, a dive instructor at Boating Marlborough Dive Centre noticing the rubbish when taking a student for a dive in the Cove. “ We have to do something about this, showing off our beautiful sounds is great but go underwater and in places it isn’t too beautiful.”

The response was amazing with a lot of encouragement from many individuals and companies.

Another local business –  Blenheim Dive Centre also contacted them to get involved and asked if they could collect the rubbish they had found and put in one place. They too had experienced the situation in Double Cove.

A clean up dive was organised and all assembled at the dive shop. In total 17 people, divers, boat helpers and three boats joined in. It wasn’t long before the scuba and free divers had amassed bottles, tyres, motor parts, buckets, pipes and unrecognizable objects from the sea floor.”I had to say stop to any more rubbish, and call the divers in, as the boats where fully loaded” said Stuart Scaife the organiser. “We only covered a small area really, and we were all surprised by the amount collected”.

This isn’t the only “clean up dives” or “Dive for Debris” that Boating Marlborough Dive Centre has been involved with, and they have worked in with other caring groups.

Their next rubbish dive is on 22nd April which is international “Earth Day” in which they will dive Waikawa Marina and start from where their last Earth Day dive finished. Last time they had divers from Christchurch and Nelson eager to help in this unique dive.

“All our rubbish clean up dives are free for helpers and divers” said Stuart. “We really appreciate the support we receive and people often donate the use of their boats, resources, and time to help out”rubbish group

To find out more about Earth Day visit http://www.earthday.org/ alternatively visit http://www.projectaware.org/ to find out how you can get involved or run an activity to help our underwater friends!

What Do You Love About the Ocean?

Project AWARE - What I Love About the Ocean

Do something different this Valentine’s Day. Inspire your student divers to protect the underwater world by taking part in the #WhatILoveAbouttheOcean campaign.

Join Project AWARE in celebrating what divers everywhere love about the ocean:

  1. Share your favourite ocean picture on Twitter or Instagram using #WhatILoveAbouttheOcean. Your image will be automatically added to the campaign photo grid.
  2. Don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account? Don’t worry you can still participate by adding your photo directly to the #WhatILoveAbouttheOcean grid. Don’t forget to add a caption!
  3. Make a donation to help protect what you love for future generations.

Project AWARE will spread the love far and wide by featuring some of your best pics to inspire others to love and protect the ocean!

Share your love for the ocean this Valentine’s Day and head to Twitter to tweet your love: This #ValentinesDay I’m celebrating my ❤ for the ocean to inspire others to protect it #WhatILoveAbouttheOcean