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How Al Mahara Became The UAE’s First PADI Eco Center

Kathleen Russell, PADI Course Director from the United Arab Emirates’ first PADI Eco Center, Al Mahara Diving Center, recounts her key motivations, conservation milestones and the sustainability solutions that worked for her and her team over the years. 

When and why did you first start taking sustainability and conservation seriously in your dive business? 

Since day one, we’ve been conscientious about reducing and recycling our waste. While studying agricultural science at university during the 80s, I remember sustainable development was already in discussion. Throughout the years as a PADI diver, I’ve always been passionate about preserving the ocean and educating others. This year marks my 28th year as a PADI pro and I’m still fighting for our blue planet.

What steps did you take in your sustainability journey? 

Becoming a PADI Pro was the first step towards my journey in sustainability, and in the 90s, while working with divers in Hong Kong, we frequently conducted underwater cleanups and supported Project AWARE, now known as PADI AWARE. I was thrilled when PADI started offering Coral Reef Conservation, Shark Conservation Awareness, and Whale Shark Conservation specialties, knowing that they would benefit our diving and snorkeling communities, as well as the youth community.

Another significant milestone was when PADI introduced the Dive Against Debris app and data sheets, making it possible for divers worldwide to collect data for underwater cleanups. As divers are the only group capable of collecting and reporting this data, being part of this movement was inspiring. 

Meeting ocean legends like Joanna Ruxton, MBE, founder of Plastics Ocean Foundation and Ocean Generations, was another milestone. She showed us the incredible wonder of our one ocean and emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to protect it. Since 2015, she has been one of my mentors. Lastly, meeting the Cousteau family, whose legacy has had a significant impact on the oceans, was also a significant milestone. They demonstrated that by pursuing your passions and dedicating yourself to environmental goals, you can achieve a lot.

What actions did you take and what solutions have you implemented that have worked well for you? 

We remained focused and goal-oriented throughout our sustainability journey. One of our primary goals was to survey many local dive sites and engage the youth diving community. To achieve this, we trained more youth divers and visited schools to discuss the local marine environment. Additionally, we introduced outdoor education programs for youths, such as kayaking in the mangroves. Our objective was to connect the youth with the natural environment to help them understand the significance of our marine ecosystems and why they’re crucial for us.

To further our efforts, we taught the boy scouts scuba and sustainability merit badges and used Bubble Maker to add fun to the water for younger scouts and youths. Another crucial aspect of our sustainability approach was reassessing the dive operation and logistics to eliminate single-use plastics and follow more sustainable practices, such as using ocean-safe sunscreen and encouraging our divers to do the same. Using the Green Fins Hub enabled us to review our current practices, see where we had already made significant progress over the years and yet still identify other areas that we could continue to address in order to improve our environmental impact. 

What lessons did you learn along the way? 

Throughout my sustainability journey, I’ve learned several valuable lessons. First and foremost, I’ve learned to believe in my commitment and to practice what I preach without seeking recognition or feeding my ego. We must take action to ensure the health of our ocean and not wait for others to do so, as some might merely talk about it. Committed divers treat every day as Earth Day and always find something beautiful to share with others about the environment. They lead by example when it’s time to take action and conserve, preserve, and restore our ocean.

What advice would you share with other PADI Members looking to become PADI Eco Centers? 

Focus on what is essential in your locality and share it with the community. Make your Adopt the Blue an important aspect of your activities. Make sure all the team members complete their Green Fins e-course and follow the guidelines. It’s crucial to involve the youth in all aspects of your efforts, including logistics, as this empowers them. Stay active, even if others aren’t, and always maintain hope and believe that we can restore our ocean.

In order to become a PADI Eco Center, each PADI operator has joined PADI AWARE’s Adopt the Blue network and demonstrated an exemplary level of environmental performance through The Reef-World Foundation’s Green Fins initiative. To learn more about PADI Eco Center and the steps you can take at your dive business to begin or continue your sustainability journey, check out the links below.

PADI Eco Center Launches on Earth Day
Understanding PADI Eco Center: How To Demonstrate Exemplary Environmental Performance

The post How Al Mahara Became The UAE’s First PADI Eco Center appeared first on PADI Pros.

Conservation, adopt the blue, conservation, Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, PADI Eco CenterPADI Pros


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