The PADI AWARE Foundation® is working with PADI® Dive Centers, Resorts and Professionals in Brazil and South Africa to encourage the public to rally their respective governments in support of mako shark fishing bans in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Mako sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing, especially in the North Atlantic, where we have seen populations decline severely. It is currently estimated that the shark population will take 50 years to fully recover if fishing bans were implemented today,” says Ian Campbell, Associate Director, Policy and Campaigns of PADI AWARE Foundation. “By working directly with PADI Members to raise awareness of the issue with the diving community, we aim to encourage governmental support of mako shark protections in the Atlantic.”
The PADI AWARE Foundation, collaborating with the Shark League NGO coalition, launched the mako shark campaign in February 2021. In addition to the global #Divers4Makos petition that has earned nearly 30,000 signatures to date, the campaign focuses on two key countries—Brazil and South Africa— whose governments have yet to publicly support the ban. The campaign provides PADI Dive Centers, Resorts and Professionals in the regions with the PADI AWARE Shark Conservation course so they can directly educate divers and members of the public on the importance of mako sharks for the ocean.
In just two months, the campaign has been embraced by PADI Torchbearers™ in both countries. There are currently twelve PADI dive operators alongside five independent instructors implementing the AWARE Shark Conservation course in South Africa and thirteen dive centers alongside one independent instructor doing the same in Brazil.
“The campaign has been greatly accepted by those who are doing the AWARE course with us, and is further enhanced by the fact that we can change the mysticism of diving in places where sharks can be seen, often caused by unsubstantiated fear of sharks,” explains Sergio Medeiros, owner of Scafo Mergulho, a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“The problems aren’t sugar coated and it is an empowering course for any diver to do. It has further inspired me to make every person’s dive—including myself—count towards the greater good of the ocean,” adds Devon Ford, Master Scuba Diver Trainer at Scuba Evolution in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The main goal of the campaign is to create a tidal wave of support from the public to call on their governments to back the mako shark fishing ban.
By supporting PADI Dive Centers, Resorts and Professionals and their platforms, the campaign is able to create a swell of letters, emails and social media movements directed at each of the respective governments.
“The AWARE Shark Conservation course has been met with both enthusiasm and shock towards learning the real impact humans have on nature. Students are looking at both sharks and the ocean in a whole new light,” explains Peter Herbst, PADI Course Director at Reef Divers in Gauteng, South Africa.
“It’s brought a lot of people—both divers and non-divers—together to partake in spreading awareness. Those who have taken part want to collectively make South Africa a champion for mako sharks and has given us the tools to really implement positive change with shark conservation,” says Shannon Stewart, independent PADI Staff Instructor in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“As a PADI Instructor and trainer, the course has given me an opportunity to learn more about sharks and share that knowledge with our customers,” adds Fernanda Paiva, owner of PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center Let’s Dive in Maceio, Brazil.
The campaign is set to run through November, when government-level discussions regarding fishing bans on mako sharks with the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is scheduled to take place.
Currently, thirteen other countries have backed the ban on fishing mako sharks proposed jointly by Canada and Senegal, with the hopes that the results of this campaign will add two more—Brazil and South Africa— to the list of support. These international efforts are one of many international collaborations to come between PADI, PADI AWARE Foundation and the diving community at large. On Earth Day, PADI announced the Blueprint for Ocean Action; a set of five bold conservation targets for the coming decade in line with United Nations targets and in support of the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
One of these five goals is to protect 20 vulnerable shark and ray species by deploying in-country conservation campaigns, inspired by the initial successes of the mako campaign in Brazil and South Africa. “To achieve these goals, we will unite the largest network of dive centers and resorts, dive professionals and divers to take action as PADI Torchbearers in their communities, linking local action to global impact,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “Saving the ocean requires all of us acting together in thousands of ways on a local level, united by our passion and armed with a clear plan of action to turn the dial towards a healthy future for both people and planet.”
Visit padi.com/conservation/take-action to sign the #Divers4Makos petition and join the community of PADI Torchbearers working together to save the ocean. Visit http://www.sharkleague.org/mako-champions/ to find out if your country is backing mako shark protection.