How the Closure of One Island Made a Whole Country Start Working Towards a Greener Future

By Conny Jeppson, PADI Regional Manager Philippines

In April this year, the government of the Philippines decided that they were closing one of their most visited islands, Boracay, for 6 months. The decision was made to allow time for infrastructure to improve and most importantly, to develop a new and more efficient waste water treatment.

Boracay-Beach-White Sand- Philippines
 

With more than 2 million visitors a year, many never thought the closure would actually be possible. Coincidentally, when the closure was enforced many of the world’s eyes turned to the Philippines, some in astonishment, but many looking to the Philippines to be an Eco-leader and example for the future. Even though the financial impact for most was more than could be endured, nearly all operators on the island stood behind the rehabilitation. Operators believed that the action taken would preserve the island and ensure it remained a paradise for future generations to come.

What’s even more interesting is the ripple effect that the closure has had on the community across the country and in some ways, its neighbouring countries. Suddenly and in most parts of the country, local businesses, municipalities and individuals quickly started to also improve the overall condition of their homes and businesses. A good example of this is Malapascua Island where most PADI Dive Centres and Resorts have joined forces by starting to sell refillable aluminium water bottles branded with their own logo. Not only is this a great initiative, but customers can also present their water bottle in affiliated stores and in return, can refill their water bottles for free.

Many resorts and dive centres on the island have also switched to better alternatives when it comes to the use of plastic. Plastic straws are now hard to find as reusable items and non-plastic solutions have become readily available to the community. Evolution, a PADI 5 star resort in Malapascua, have taken this initiative even further with one of their owners, Matt Reed. They have invested in a plastic recycling machine from planet positive products. Matt and the Evolution team have not only envisioned this machine to be used for their dive resort, but they also hope that it can be used for bigger parts of the island.

Malapascua Island- Phillippines- Beach- Ocean

El Nido in Palawan Island is another fantastic example of a community being in the forefront to protect the environment. The local government have banned the use of single use plastic such as plastic bags and plastic straws.  The local government have also worked hard to reclaim the local beach by introducing local laws to benefit both the local community and tourists alike.

El Nido- Palawan-Philippines-Beach

The above examples are only a handful of how the Philippines community are joining forces to improve our overall environment. There are many more PADI Dive Centres and Resorts, PADI Instructors and PADI Divemasters working hard to protect, educate and promote a more environmental way of living.

PADI Regional Managers get to experience some great environmental initiatives all around their region. If you are looking to make environmental improvements at your PADI Dive Centre or Resort, contact your PADI Regional Manager to discuss ideas, implementation and support.

A Force for Good: the Reachers and Teachers

The planet’s environmental health is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Looking at the innovation, initiatives and social ground swell happening on all fronts, we know we can rise to the challenge through dedication, focus, tenacity and importantly, by working on hearts and minds as well as preservation and restoration. Involving kids – the coming generations who will inherit the Earth – is crucial for our future. Global conservation is making great strides, but a sustainable future demand that it becomes an ongoing mindset that expands and gets passed on.

And, it’s happening, thanks to divers who reach and teach youngsters to share a passion that goes beyond diving to protecting and restoring the underwater world. In Tahiti, the Moorea Coral Gardeners – a growing team of youngsters (and some not-so-youngsters) – freedives to replant coral to reverse damage to Moorea, Tahiti’s incredible reefs (still awesome, by the way). But, they go further, educating local youth about why all the world’s coral reefs are environmentally and economically important, and need preservation. The Gardeners started as a local youth coral restoration project and now, through social media, they touch lives everywhere with an age-spanning team of international professional athletes, actors, and media stars.

The U.S.-based Kids Sea Camp, founded by PADI Instructor Margo Peyton, involves youngsters starting at age 4 (snorkeling) at some of diving’s best and most popular south Pacific and Caribbean destinations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at Kids Scuba Syed Abd Rahman is on a parallel mission, bringing new talent into diving’s ranks by uniting ocean and coral conservation with diver training. Both groups introduce youth to wonderous, eye-opening underwater adventures while embracing diving’s higher purpose as the underwater world’s ambassadors and protectors. Still other divers reach kids wherever they are; in Koh Tao, Guy Corsellis talks with kids at the Koh Tao International Primary School about marine life, how it behaves, why it’s important and how to be kind to the environment.

There are many examples like these, and there need to be more because through involvement, engagement and example, young divers learn that the ocean and coral reefs are not just awesome, but threatened. They learn why and, most importantly, what we can all do about it – and we’re talking about more than coral. Showing our youth the underwater world and coral reefs is the best place to start in building a global culture that lives harmoniously with the global environment. People who experience coral reefs come to care about them quickly – and because these are the world’s environmental barometers, it’s often where we see subtle changes first. People focused in preserving this fragile environment will take on the bigger environmental issues because almost all of them ultimately affect the coral reefs. In other words, to preserve and restore the coral, we really have to preserve and restore the world environment.

Let’s applaud the reachers and teachers who motivate young people to embrace the underwater world, but I challenge all of us to also be one of them. Share your diving experiences with the kids in your life – at schools, youth centers, clubs, neighborhood, home — anywhere you cross paths. Explain why the oceans, reefs and the creatures living there are special and important, and how choices like reusing and recycling make a difference. Offer to introduce them to a dive instructor if you’re not one yet, or teach them to dive if you are.

Then, watch their eyes light up when they see, hear and feel what you and I have come to love so much. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to contribute to a better future.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

PADI’s Pillars of Change- A Force for Good in Koh Tao, Thailand

Written by PADI Territory Director Tim Hunt 

At  PADI  we  are  committed  to  supporting  social  and  environmental  efforts  through  PADI’s Pillars of Change. It  is  something  you’ve  heard  us  talk  about  during  our  member  forums,  general updates  and Social  Media  channels  –  but  we  are  also  putting  these words  into  action.  Around  the  globe  our  field  staff  are  spreading  the  message  to  members  and  to  potential  PADI  divers,  as  our  community  continues  to  grow.  Here  is  a  quick  look  at  the  efforts  of  Regional  Manager  Neil  Richards  and  Regional  Training  Consultant  Guy  Corsellis,  who  are  both based  in  Koh  Tao,  Thailand.

1

Marine Animal Protection  –  As  we all  know  a  healthy  ocean  is  vital  to  humanity. Therefore, PADI is taking steps to help divers become part of a positive solution to help impact and change our oceans. Guy and his son Iggy (PADI Divemaster Candidate) took this powerful message to the children from schools in their region, Koh Tao’s International Primary School and a local Thai Public School. After giving presentations to these children about the behavior of marine animals in their local underwater habitat, they were also able to provide some eco-friendly tips. By teaching and educating the children on how important our oceans, including the species within it, they will learn and help spread our message from an early age. We hope that as the future generation, they can influence change for generations to come.

2

Ocean Health  – With over 200,000 identified species in the oceans and millions more to discover, protecting our marine life biodiversity is critical. PADI works closely with organisations that strive to help and protect our oceans in a multitude of ways.  As our key partner in the environment for 25 years, Project AWARE  is one such organisation that is committed to keeping the natural balance in our aquatic world.  Project AWARE’s Community Conservation Officer, Jack Fishman, visited  Thailand to spread the word on Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris Specialty Course, helping PADI dive centres engage with their community and tackle marine debris head on. He gave valuable insight into the role scuba divers play in highlighting the extent of the marine debris problem. The Project AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty Course was also taught to a large number of divers. PADI continues to support the education of our community into the importance of sharks and keeping marine ecosystems in equilibrium.

3

Healing and Wellness  – Becoming a diver is a life changing experience for a lot of people. It can drive career changes and provide transformations both mentally and physically. PADI’s Adaptive Techniques Specialty Course is a great example of this. It is a fantastic way for people to overcome adversity, illness or disability. Neil Richards and Guy Corsellis taught the specialty to the PADI Course Directors on Koh Tao to get them all motivated to support the transformation this speciality can bring. In a truly inspiring session, the PADI Course Directors showed great camaraderie as they worked together to develop different techniques to teaching. A course that was a real opener to some seasoned PADI professionals, will now become crucial to not only providing new divers the ability to fulfill their dreams, but also to inspire others along the way.

4

People + Community  – Very few people give more to a community than its emergency teams, ready  to help in an instant and putting others needs ahead of their own. Neil and Guy decided to give a little back when they took some of the nurses from Koh Tao’s newly opened hospital out for some fun under the water, as part of PADI Women’s Dive Day. The six nurses were introduced to a whole new world during a PADI Discover Scuba Diving Introductory Experience. By supporting the training of local people to foster sustainability, PADI continues to educate and support local communities to cultivate the protection mindset necessary for ocean health and marine animal protection.

 

For more information about the PADI Pillars of Change, please visit our website here.

#PADI4Change

A Force for Good: The Restorers

Coral Restoration Foundation

One thing about divers and the tenacity of the human spirit is that when we face a challenge, we size it up and then find a way over it, around it or through it. We’re handling coral stress and decline the same way. Today divers, partnering with scientists, have been at the heart of dozens of coral restoration initiatives, with research and practice in coral farming and transplanting growing and spreading. In my last blog post, I linked to the Coral Restoration Project, birthed by diver Dr. David Vaughan of Mote Marine Laboratory, who in starting some of the first coral nurseries, discovered how to grow coral 25 to 40 times faster than before. His discovery is one of the major breakthroughs we needed to start replacing coral on a large scale, and is just one example.

Jump to PADI Ambassadiver Andre Miller MSc in Barbados. Recognizing that documenting coral damage is important but not a solution, Andre spearheaded a local effort to relocate endangered corals and to repopulate damaged heads. With a 90+% survival rate, this effort has already spread to several destinations in the Caribbean. Check out this link for locations and some amazing before and after images.

CRF Restoration Program Manager Jessica Levy Works on Hanging New Corals on in the CRF NurseryPhoto: Coral Restoration Foundation 

One more example, the Coral Restoration Foundation™,  Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire and Curacao, with extensive participation by local PADI Dive Centers, visiting divers and the local dive community, their emphasis is staghorn and elkhorn corals, which are important because they provide structure and habitat, yet are listed as threatened by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Today, the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida, has the capacity to grow more than 22,000 corals to a reef-ready size in one year, and has, to date, planted more than 74,000 corals back onto the Florida Reef Tract.

All the ways divers are central to restoring and reviving the underwater world could go on for pages, but three important points:

First, there’s a place for you in coral restoration. Head to tropical water and chances are the dive community’s doing it or getting it going – and needs your help because coral restoration requires divers. There is a lot of caretaking and routine maintenance to grow and transplant coral and to do this properly. Several dive operators teach PADI Coral Restoration distinctive specialties or host experiences that get you involved hands on. If you’re local and can participate regularly, even better. And, the coral colony you plant tomorrow could still be there — and much larger — when your descendants swim by on some dive in the distant future. Pretty cool.

Second, preservation is pivotal part to coral restoration. Although restoration is accelerating, globally, coral decline is ahead. We have to address the drivers that accelerate coral loss as well as replant more to close this gap. Besides, replanting ultimately fails if new coral can’t survive anyway. So, every time you reduce your carbon footprint, recycle plastic, reduce debris, choose sustainable seafood, vote for the protection and conservation of aquatic resources and the marine environment and so on, you are helping to restore coral.

Third, we need to be realistic but also optimistic. Twenty-five million plus divers is an overwhelming force – with more than ten times the world’s largest military force, and an allegiance to a healthy, livable planet, it is a positive force that can change things. So, as I said before, the seas are in trouble, but the situation is far from hopeless because you’re on their side. We’re already moving, but let’s do more, faster. If you’re not sure where you fit in best, start your own journey and informed discussions with others.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Riding a Whale Shark? Outrageous and Unacceptable!

Unbelievable! Maybe you’ve seen the viral video of scuba divers in Indonesia riding a whale shark? In this day and age, someone has the nerve to do something like this? It makes me furious!

This kind of behavior is not okay for anyone, anywhere, anytime, but especially unacceptable for us divers. It’s a big deal – not just for the poor animal being mugged to exhaustion by divers amid its survival struggles (though that is a supreme part of it), but for the entire dive community. We’re supposed to be the ambassadors of the underwater world – the collective voice of care and concern that speaks up to protect our endangered seas from abuses like overfishing, plastic debris, shark finning and wide-scale pollution. Marine Animal Protection is one of PADI’s Pillars of Change, and I know the vast majority – probably more than 99.9% – of divers would never do something like this, and actively support what the dive community’s doing to protect the oceans.

But, this video paints us as hypocrites who exploit marine animals for our own entertainment – but not only that, these divers were breaking international and local laws (whale sharks have been protected by Indonesian law since 2013) that the dive community has been breaking its back to help put in place. Researchers think that whale sharks have declined 63% in the Indo-Pacific in the last 75 years, around 30% in the Atlantic, with a 50% reduction overall in the last decade. This is why IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) considers the whale shark endangered.

Whale Sharks are intelligent marine animals, seeing one suffering at the hands of joy riding scuba divers is outrageous! You should be outraged too – and I know many of you are as evidenced  by the thousands of enraged posts this video prompted and continues to prompt. I’ve noted reports that the divers (or some of them) have been arrested, and we’ll trust Indonesian law to be just. The arrests themselves show that the issue and law are taken seriously – as they should be.

Please speak up if you have not yet. The world needs to know that this isn’t us. This isn’t diving. Your voice matters – as Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good [people] to do nothing.” Silence is often taken as acceptance – and that cannot stand! If any nondivers you know saw the video, tell them it shows unacceptable, irresponsible behavior. Your personal contact delivering the message makes a big difference – it is a voice of authority because you’re a scuba diver, freediver or both. We can all help turn this negative incident into positive change by educating divers and nondivers about the Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism Guide jointly produced by Project AWARE, WWF and Manta Trust.

Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax – speaking for the trees, we are divers, speaking for the seas. We are champions of our ocean planet, so let’s act like it. Please help spread the word that the diving family is a force for good in the world, and we don’t and won’t tolerate these kinds of behaviors.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

PADI Joins Forces with Mission Blue to Help Protect the World’s Ocean

PADI® and Mission Blue™ have forged a formal partnership to help increase the level of protection of our world’s ocean. Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue inspires action to explore and protect the ocean. At the heart of this effort is a global campaign to build public support for the protection of Hope Spots — special places that are vital to the health of the ocean.

Hope Spots are about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean. By activating its global network of divers and dive professionals, the PADI family will further bring attention to marine areas in a worldwide network targeted for enhanced protection.

“Mission Blue is thrilled to partner with PADI to bring awareness to divers around the world about the value of Hope Spots,” says Laura Cassiani, Executive Director of Mission Blue. “Divers are an important voice in the global coalition for greater marine conservation because they know first-hand the beauty and fragility of marine ecosystems. We believe deeply that this exciting new collaboration between PADI and Mission Blue will ignite broad support for further ocean conservation around the world. Onward and downward!”

In November 2016, PADI announced our Four Pillars of Change social and environmental responsibility program. Devised to elevate the PADI mission to be best in and for the world, the Four Pillars will help connect the PADI community to the ocean causes they care about. Program efforts will be focused on building awareness of important issues affecting ocean health, strengthening dive communities and dive infrastructure, and forming global alliances that will engage and mobilize PADI Dive Centres, Resorts, dive professionals, and divers to be a global force for good.

“Connecting PADI Divers and Members with the Hope Spots program provides them with actionable opportunities to have a lasting impact on the future of our blue planet,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “Through our partnership, PADI and Mission Blue hope to educate divers and ignite support for Hope Spots with the long-term goal of formally protecting more areas of our world’s ocean.”

PADI will showcase a different Hope Spot each month, such as the Coral Triangle and the Saanich Inlet, to give divers a deeper insight into these vital ecosystems and the need to safeguard them as protected areas. In the coming months, PADI Divers will learn more about some of the best Hope Spots for diving and have an opportunity to nominate new Hope Spots.

If governments, civilian organisations and communities work together to formally protect Hope Spots, these special marine environments can form the seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean. Currently, only 5% of the world’s oceans are protected. By joining forces, the goal set forth by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress to protect 30 percent of our world’s oceans by 2030 is reachable.