PADI Staff Complete a Dive Against Debris Event in Koh Tao, Thailand

Written by PADI Territory Director, Tim Hunt.

Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris - PADI Staff - Drew Richardson - Koh Tao - Thailand

By now you have heard about PADI’s Four Pillars of Change, one of which includes Ocean Health. On March 27th words and ethos were put into action in Koh TaoThailand where multiple PADI dive operators joined forces to conduct a Project AWARE Dive Against Debris event on their Adopted Dive Sites. This call to action is not an irregular experience in Koh Tao but this time PADI President & CEO Drew Richardson, PADI Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Valette-Wirth, PADI Vice President Danny Dwyer, PADI Territory Director Tim Hunt, PADI Regional Manager Neil Richards and PADI Regional Training Consultant Guy Corsellis, got to experience it firsthand. 

Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris - PADI Staff - Drew Richardson - Koh Tao - Thailand

Through combined efforts, almost 100 kg/220 lb of debris was removed from the ocean floor and reported back to Project AWARE. This adds to the current tally of more than 6,000 kg/13,227 lb and 40,000 items of rubbish removed from the surrounding waters of Koh Tao since the program started in 2011. Even though the island promotes some outstanding environmentally minded campaigns such as ‘no plastic bags at 7-11’ and ‘say no plastic straws’, unfortunately the item that was most reported in the in the past 300+ Dives Against Debris Surveys from Koh Tao was plastic bottles.

PADI President & CEO Drew Richardson said “The PADI Operators and Divers on Koh Tao are exemplary in making a difference in the face of the numerous threats to our seas.  Globe-wide problems can seem overwhelming, but these divers showed that we can and do make a difference on a local level. They banded together as citizen scientists to adopt and steward the waters surrounding Koh Tao, inspiring divers and future dive leaders to care and take action. The power of one becomes a force multiplier when millions of divers across the planet are inspired to make a difference in this way. It was an honor to participate in Dive against Debris with the Koh Tao diving community and inspiring to see the young divers and instructors express true and profound care and take action for the ocean on that day.”  

Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris - PADI Staff - Drew Richardson - Koh Tao - Thailand

Some interesting facts from Project AWARE:

  • Globally more than 1 million items of debris have been removed from the ocean and reported.
  • Almost 50,000 scuba divers have participated in Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program.
  • Sadly over 5,500 entangled or dead animals were reported.
  • 64% of waste reported has been plastic.
  • 25% of data collected in Koh Tao has come from Adopted Dive Sites – have you adopted yours?

As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Project AWARE has pledged that they will have removed and report the next million items of marine debris from the ocean by 2020 #NextMillion2020. Scuba divers will inherently pick up marine debris they see (as it comes instinctively to most) however recording and reporting each collection is vital to change policies locally, nationally and globally. So in the future please make every dive, a survey dive!

Thanks again to all the dedicated PADI Dive Shops for hosting this event including; Master DiversAssava Dive ResortSairee Cottage DivingDavy Jones LockerBuddha View Dive ResortBans Diving Resort and Crystal Dive!

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

 

Super Divers Dive Against Debris

Photos supplied by Super Divers

On Monday 6 March 2017, PADI 5-Star Dive Center, Super Divers arranged a Project AWARE® Dive Against Debris® aboard MV Freedom Dolphin.  The day started with the leader of the project, PADI Elite Instructor Jon Walsh briefing the guests on board about the importance of keeping our oceans clear of rubbish and sharing some of the quite astonishing facts about the amount of debris that ends up in our oceans every year.

The cleanup was entirely volunteers and it was impressive to see that more than 40 volunteers took part to raise awareness and remove debris from the ocean.

The best part was that Super Divers found there was actually very little debris to be collected.

“It’s testament to the great job all those who visit dive sites around Phuket do in collecting anything that shouldn’t be in the sea,” said Walsh.

“The small amount we did recover will now be broken down by type of debris and the amount and dive site at which it was found will be registered with Project AWARE.”

As is the case too often, plastic and fishing line were the main culprits of the day – but every piece that is removed from our oceans helps.

Congratulations to the entire team at Super Divers and to all the volunteers involved.

For more information about Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris campaign, visit the website.

Beneath the Waves with Project AWARE

beneath the waves project aware
In 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.