How Can We Protect More of Our Oceans?

For more than two decades, scientists have been telling us that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the keys to long term ocean health. While some debated their worth early on, today there’s little dispute. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, MPAs with full protection have four times as much life (biomass). Species grow larger and reproduce proportionately more. MPAs and the areas around them recover more quickly from environmental damage, and (along with fishery management) have higher fish catches — so much so that commercial fishing comes out ahead despite the loss of fishable area.

While established as big wins for everyone, global governments are not on track to meet a U.N. goal to have 10% of the world’s ocean under full protection by 2020. Officially, we’re at just under 6%, but some say it’s really under 4% because some declared MPAs have no enforcement and nothing’s changed.

(Caption: Moreton Bay Hope Spot Anemone Fish – Photo By Chis Roelfsema)

But thanks to Hope Spots, we can help catch up and get ahead of the curve. Hope Spots, if you’re not familiar, were conceived by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with coordination and oversight by Mission Blue, a not-for-profit organization Dr. Earle founded to unite people and organizations for this cause. Hope Spots are unique marine areas identified as particularly distinct due to the diversity of species found there, the habitat’s importance for reproduction, threats from human activity, community economic needs or any other attribute that makes a location central to marine environmental health.

The idea is to conserve and preserve Hope Spots by leveraging public perception and attention so they receive appropriate protection (not necessarily becoming MPAs, and some Hope Spots are already MPAs). As you’d expect, the PADI organization formally partnered with Mission Blue in 2017, adding the weight of 26 million+ PADI Diver voices to the Hope Spot cause. Thanks to Dr. Earle, Hope Spots are a conspicuous example of how one person with a great idea can inspire millions to unite across borders and cultures for a common purpose.

(Caption: Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue)

Today, there are almost 100 existing and proposed Hope Spots, and they are important, even though preserving them will not, in itself, halt global climate change, clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, etc. These bigger problems call for big, broad and deep social changes (that are not impossible), but we still need Hope Spots for several reasons:

  • By creating areas with proven biological productivity, they help us buy time addressing some of these challenges. For example, Hope Spots won’t solve overfishing, but by providing areas in which fish reproduction functions unchecked, we prop up fish populations as we sort through the management issues.
  • Hope Spots help preserve biodiversity. Some scientists see this as helping the ocean bounce back with as many species as possible as we make positive changes. Others, accepting that some change is permanent, see biodiversity as central to marine ecology. That is, some coral species tolerate heat better than others; having a diverse genetic supply of such species may be important in a warmer ocean.
  • Hope Spots are inspirational and visible. Hope Spots draw attention. They remind communities just how close and personal ocean threats are, but that we can (and must) act to offset them. As a source of local pride, Hot Spots inspire area divers and ocean advocates to speak up for and fight for them. Mission Blue, PADI and other supporters use social media to highlight Hope Spot stories to make and keep them in the broad public eye.

As a diver, you can support the PADI organization, Mission Blue and others united behind Hope Spots. You can nominate a Hope Spot, and you can participate in events promoting/protecting a Hope Spot (many led by PADI dive shops or instructors, and may tie in Project AWARE as well). Of course, you can contribute to Hope Spot funding – check out mission-blue.org. If you live near or visit a Hope Spot, talk about it in person and on social media – especially with those who may not be aware of it. Finally, get involved with Project AWARE and your local PADI dive operation to make every dive count. Millions of people like you and me passionately preserving, conserving and restoring the ocean is the best hope there is.

Dr. Drew Richardson

PADI President & CEO

A Force for Good: The Researchers

Everyone knows that global environments in general, and the oceans in particular, are threatened. Climate change, coral bleaching, over fishing, runaway plastics – it’s a long list and every day, another study makes the list longer and more daunting. It may seem like everyone’s jumping on the bad news bandwagon, but I look at these reports in a positive, enabling way: the future we don’t want must be predicted to avoid it.

healthy-coral-reef-manta-ray

So, besides studying current issues, marine and environmental researchers show us problems before they arise. For example, in August marine scientists Wortman, Paytan and Yao (University of Toronto and University of California, Santa Cruz) released a study that suggests that, beyond warming, elevated atmospheric CO2 would reduce oceanic oxygen, making the deeper depths toxic and significantly damage fisheries through it effect on the food web. Yes, that’s bad news, but thanks to these researchers we know now, while we still have time to do something about it.

And, this leads to the second reason researchers are a crucial force for good. It’s about predicting problems, but also finding the solutions andsharing them. In a previous blog, I mentioned Dr. Vaughan’s breakthrough in coral restoration – shared research that directly addresses a massive global challenge that’s close to the heart of all divers. In Cuba’s Guanahacabibes National Marine Park, biologist Dr. Dorka Cobián Rojas teams with global scientists and “citizen scientist” divers to research causes and implement solutions to coral loss and the invasive lionfish. There also, Dr. Osmani Borrego similarly researches plastic pollution. These are critical research efforts because Guanahacabibes’ reefs are healthy, making them a biological resource oasis needed to find the problems and solutions we need to protect, preserve and restore the world’s reefs and fisheries.

healthy-coral-reef

Let’s not overlook “citizen scientist” involvement, because it is vital. Professional full-time researchers like Rojás and Borrego do not have the time or resources to gather all the data and trial the solutions. Solving massive, world-scale problems calls for massive, world-scale participation – in the ocean, that means you and me. As Project AWARE likes to say, don’t let your dives go to waste. Every dive we make can contribute to research. Dive Against Debris, for example, isn’t simply about picking up litter underwater or pointing fingers – it’s part of finding out how we can stop it.

Another effort is Reef Life Survey, founded by Dr. Graham Edgar, which trains volunteer divers to survey marine organisms. More than 200 RLS divers have already surveyed more than 2,000 sites in 44 countries, creating one of the largest global biological databases in existence. Using these data, researchers expect a shift in fish and invertebrate distribution as the oceans warm – a conclusion only possible thanks to these citizen scientist divers.  India.mongbay.com reports that in India, scientists train fishermen and other volunteers to dive (if they’re not already divers) as citizen scientists for involvement in multiple initiatives, and it has another benefit – public support. “The research also gets community buy-in when their people are involved,” the report quotes University of Kerala’s aquatic biology department head A. Biju Kuma. Go online and you can find literally dozens of ways scientists embrace divers like you and me in researching the solutions to environmental threats.

coral-reef-cuba

There’s a lot to do, so let’s make every dive count. Join Dive Against Debris if you haven’t already, and/or any other citizen scientist effort. We can be researchers while still making images, exploring or doing everything else we love about diving. And, let’s be restorers who use what we’re learning to rebuild, revitalize and recreate a healthy global environment. Let’s be reachers and teachers who use diving to spread what we’re learning and doing, and pass it to the next generations.

Regardless of what today’s trends are, the future is not inevitable. With 25 million PADI Professionals and Divers helping lead the way, and with a new generation of divers to come, we’re already changing course to a different tomorrow with a thriving, healthy global environment. When it comes to gazing into the crystal ball, I like what author-educator Peter Drucker said:

“The best way to predict the future
is to create it.”

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

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

 

Passion Equals Productive

Written by Dr. Drew Richardson, PADI President and CEO

Take a moment to think about what makes you productive. That is, what enables you to do things that benefit others – whether material, informational, spiritual or all three. Without productivity, success in anything can’t happen: it is, in effect, how we define success (and notice it’s not necessarily money or wealth). Some will tell you that productivity results from organization, luck and talent, but we’ve all seen disorganized, unlucky, ungifted people who produce and succeed extraordinarily. And sadly, sometimes we see the opposite. What’s the key element?

I think the musician Judy Collins put her finger on it. “Do what you love,” she said, “and you will find the way to get it out to the world.” That is, a passion for what you do is the one and only critical ingredient to high productivity. Zero in on what’s really important and productivity skyrockets, not because we do more things but because we do the right things. We stop wasting time on irrelevant (though often urgent) distractions that take us off task because we know where we’re going.

And, we work harder because we want to. Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, wrote, “Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.” Passion turns failures into learning opportunities, delays into new directions and challenges into creativity. If you are truly passionate about something, you don’t have to motivate yourself to be productive with it. You only have to find the ways.

In the PADI® family, there’s no shortage of passion for diving and the underwater world, and for changing the world by sharing both. It’s why we dive and how we share diving combined. PADI’s larger purpose is changing the world for the better. Every person we bring to diving adds to the political leverage and wise consumer choices we need to protect the seas and marine animals. It adds to those healed or who are able to help heal, or both, through the power of scuba. A growing dive industry creates jobs and adds new opportunities to global and local economies. And it all happens because you and I are passionate about diving. It drives us to produce. When we can’t find a way, we make a way.

The point is to nurture and preserve your love for diving, the oceans and those who share this love. It’s the key to being productive as a dive professional. It’s the heart of making the world better with diving. If teaching becomes more about getting students through mask clearing than that gleam in their eyes when they breathe underwater for the first time (believe me, I’ve been there), step back and reconnect. Make that cool dive (trip!) you’ve been putting off. Spend an hour with a buddy listening to whales sing, watching an octopus assemble its “yard” or whatever captures your fascination. Try that new suit, CCR, regulator or computer if tech is your hot button, or chase down that person who you just know will have a burning love for diving and can’t wait to get in the water.

Put first and foremost whatever makes you genuinely passionate about diving, the ocean and sharing them, and you won’t have to worry about how to be productive. You won’t be able to help it.