As the mid-point of 2022 speeds towards us like a runaway train, it’s been ‘all hands on deck’ for the team at PADI AWARE Foundation.
World Oceans Day is fast approaching, but in our rear view, we can see the aftermath of the United Nations Our Ocean Conference, where my PADI AWARE colleague Jack Fishman and I were extremely privileged to be invited to highlight examples of how the PADI dive community has been at the forefront of ocean protection over the past decade. With all the amazing and pioneering conservation work that is out there, it was a challenging task to pick a few examples to illustrate the sheer volume of initiatives.
Decision makers saw first-hand how PADI divers across the world are taking local action and having a global impact.
Whether it’s the protection of endangered shark species, the development of nationally significant Marine Protected Areas, or kick-starting a global effort to tackle marine debris, world leaders were in awe of the efforts and impacts of the professional and recreational dive sectors.
Being front and center at this globally significant event provided our team with a chance to reflect on how PADI AWARE has evolved over the past few years.
What struck me personally, is how our work is growing in significance and stature on the world stage. This became apparent when looking back at our established Dive Against Debris (DAD) campaign and its companion project, Adopt A Dive Site (ADS).
Dive Against Debris has been running for over 10 years, and has provided a way to collect information on marine debris removed from the ocean by our global family of divers and dive operators. Adopt A Dive Site was developed as a mechanism to help the dive community collect regular marine debris data at key dive sites. While our initial objectives were to provide some guidance for the army of ‘ocean cleaners’, what we, or more specifically you, have achieved has been nothing short of miraculous.
In 2020 our Dive Against Debris data was used in a ground-breaking research project by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
This project compared seabed debris with that of beach cleanups conducted by the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. We discovered that although there were some items that were common on land and on the seafloor, overall, trash on the beach and the seabed were fundamentally different in both type and amount.
We identified global hotspots for marine debris as well as some of the socio-economic drivers behind them such as national infrastructure and wealth. These discoveries would not have been possible without the debris surveys submitted by our committed supporters, and for that we thank you.
The ocean faces increasing challenges from overfishing, habitat and species loss and the effects of climate change – so we knew we had to build and expand on our successes.
From this came the Blueprint For Ocean Action, where we will evolve our marine debris work and develop new work streams on corals, endangered species, marine protected areas and climate change. To meet our objectives for this ambitious initiative, we needed to build and expand on the Adopt A Dive Site program. This is where we have developed ADOPT THE BLUE®.
To make a difference globally, we need to establish a critical network of dive sites across the planet that can be activated for marine conservation and advance the blueprint.
The ADOPT THE BLUE® network will help us establish a footprint across the globe, which in turn will allow us to develop new conservation projects and programs as well as expand our existing work. In 2023 we will be launching a brand new citizen science project to collect much needed information on coastal shark and ray species, the ones that divers regularly come across.
We are partnering with some of the world’s leading coral scientists to ensure the dive community actively and positively contributes to restoring coral reefs around the world. Our community grant program will enable local community groups to instigate conservation efforts, and in collaboration with our partners at Blancpain, PADI professionals and dive centers like you will be able to contribute towards protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030 through ADOPT THE BLUE® and the development of new Marine Protected Areas.
PADI AWARE is evolving into a new and exciting phase of work, and we need you to join us and help us grow. Every PADI Dive Center, Resort and Professional can and should ADOPT THE BLUE®. As I write this I am reminded of a quote by the British writer and philosopher Alan Watts that should chime with all of us who enjoy the ocean: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
This blog was written by PADI AWARE Foundation’s Policy & Campaigns Associate Director, Ian Campbell.
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