In 2021, PADI AWARE Foundation committed to reaching conservation targets outlined in the Blueprint for Ocean Action by 2030. 

1. Rid the Oceans of Marine Debris: Reduce marine debris by 50% in targeted countries through partnerships and PADI AWARE’s Grant Program

2. Multiply the Number of Marine Protected Areas: Protect 30% of the ocean through the Adopt the Blue program

3. Protect Endangered and Vulnerable Marine Species: Reduce the amount of sharks and rays threatened with extinction by 25%

4. Accelerate Coral Reef Recovery and Restoration: Restore 5% of coral reef habitats through citizen science programs and project funding

5. Reduce and Offset the Carbon Footprint of the Diving Industry: Achieve carbon neutrality across the PADI organization and restore blue carbon habitats

As we reflect on the third year of this decade-long commitment, we’re celebrating the impact we’ve had in driving local action for global ocean conservation, thanks to the support and dedication of our passionate community around the world. 

Here are just a few of the highlights we accomplished together in 2023.

Community Grants

Engaging and supporting local people and habitats is encapsulated in the first part of PADI AWARE’s mission – to drive local action. In 2023 alone, PADI AWARE Foundation allocated 14% of its expenses to provide 31 grants, totaling more than $200,000 USD, to support projects furthering the Blueprint for Ocean Action. The grants spanned many countries and conservation areas and gave necessary funding to small non-profits and PADI Dive Centers that are actively engaged in their community. Grant projects funded in 2023 include (but aren’t limited to):

Learn more about the PADI AWARE Community Grant program and other grantees here.

diver attaching coral stems to a garden underwater
Photo: Big Bubble Dive Resort

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Our goal is to protect 30% of the ocean by driving in-country support to existing and potential MPAs. With the support of Blancpain, official partner of the PADI Blueprint for Ocean Action and founding partner of Adopt the Blue, PADI AWARE continues to invest and activate community members to Adopt the Blue. The program aims to accelerate the establishment of MPAs for protection and conservation by providing multiple pathways for PADI Dive Centers, Resorts, Professionals, Divers, and other ocean enthusiasts to get actively involved in conservation at both the local and global level. In 2023, we reached 2,000 Adopt the Blue sites, the critical mass needed to begin deeper engagement into the largest network of underwater sites for conservation action.

In the past year, we focused our MPA efforts on establishing a proof-of-concept for Small Island Nations that would validate our approach and scale for MPA creation. Working closely with local partners in Barbados to help meet protection targets set by the national government, PADI AWARE Foundation attended and led community workshops with a range of stakeholders to discuss solutions for coral restoration, marine debris removal, and vulnerable species tracking.

Group of divers with dive against debris bags
Photo: Keone Drew Photography

We also worked to address local needs based on feedback from our partners. With more than 80% of the local population in Barbados not knowing how to swim, we made a commitment to support 500 local kids to receive water awareness training. To date, more than 300 children have participated. Shortly after the water awareness launch, six teenagers from the program expressed interest in becoming PADI certified.  

“Every child who participates in the PADI AWARE swim program is given the opportunity to not only become a future dive professional, but an ocean guardian in Barbados,” says Andre Miller, community partner and owner of Barbados Blue, a PADI Five Star Dive Resort. “In the end, we will protect what we can see.”

In 2024, we seek to establish further collaboration at the national level and connect the youth program into a broader marine protection plan. We thank the government of Barbados for inviting us to collaborate on critical issues in their local waters.

This flagship MPA project in Barbados provides a robust and valid, in-demand working model that can be globally implemented to provide real-time data to inform policy and protection measures in key areas for MPA development.

Shark & Ray Census

To date, we have collectively helped secure protection measures for 104 vulnerable species through policy changes ranging from agreed fishing limits to restrictions in unsustainable trade.

shark swimming by a reef

Scaling underwater citizen science to drive global policy and marine research is an essential component to our work. Over the course of 2023, we invested substantial resources and staff time to fulfill the commitment we made to our donors and community to build a Global Shark & Ray Census. This will include education tools, a sustainable shark tourism guide, and a new citizen platform in partnership with marine scientists around the world. We have been working diligently to get the necessary pieces together for a successful program and look forward to sharing more with you as the program is tested and finalized over the coming months.

Marine Debris 

After 13 years of investment in our marine debris program, PADI AWARE Foundation has established a credible, replicable, and scalable system to monitor and remove plastic pollution from the seafloor without damaging it – Dive Against Debris. Thanks to the support of more than 70,000 divers, PADI Dive Centers, Resorts, and Instructors around the globe, and Seiko, our key sponsor our marine debris program, by the end of 2023 we removed and reported over 2.3 million pieces of marine debris across 121 countries, advanced ground-breaking marine research, and aided over 35,000 entangled marine animals. Today, we house the largest underwater marine debris database on the planet and share that data actively with the public.

people sorting through collected debris on land

In 2023, the Dive Against Debris program reached another significant milestone. After years of negotiations, United Nations’ countries set to develop a binding global treaty, presenting a once-in-a generation opportunity to end plastic pollution for good. As an accredited charity with a seat at the international table, our Associate Director of Policy and Campaigns, Ian Campbell, actively participated as the treaty was debated by governments in Nairobi in November 2023. The outcome measures established by the Global Plastic Treaty are unknown, but what has always been clear is that scuba divers are a key stakeholder in its long-term success. As we campaign until the final meeting in 2025, we will continue to elevate the voice of our community at the international level and provide critical data to inform policy makers.

Coral Reefs

In the summer of 2023, we learned that NOAA Coral Reef Watch was seeking real-time data for coral bleaching to determine how well their satellite trackers were performing. To help, we quickly rallied and activated our Adopt the Blue network to help. As we engaged, we found that of the current 2,106 Adopt the Blue sites, 49% are in coral reef ecosystems with 18% identifying coral bleaching as a conservation issue of concern.

We reached out to Adopt the Blue sites in predetermined regions of the Caribbean identified by NOAA. Dive centers answered the call. Over 51 surveys were submitted by eight participating dive centers across five countries: Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Costa Rica, and Bonaire. This provided NOAA with real-time, underwater data on coral bleaching to inform their system and response strategy.

diver taking notes underwater

“The PADI AWARE Foundation: NOAA Coral Reef Watch pilot project, from October 2023 to January 2024, laid the groundwork for a broader citizen science monitoring effort to collect long-term, scientifically-sound monitoring data, at the Adopt the Blue sites globally, that NOAA and its partners can use to enhance resilience-based management and research on coral reefs in a rapidly warming world,” said Jacqueline De La Cour, NOAA Coral Reef Watch Operations Manager and Senior Faculty Specialist at University of Maryland/ESSIC.

In 2024, we are working as a member of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and alongside our Adopt the Blue community to provide a vital delivery service to the international coral community beyond the Caribbean. We seek to track underwater changes over time at as many sites as possible to help provide real-time data and a pre-warning system across a range of coral issues (e.g. invasive species, disease, bleaching, etc.). Special thanks to the dive centers that participated.

Nothing is Possible Without You

PADI AWARE Foundation’s impact is only possible because of our community – volunteers, donors, 100% AWARE partners, fundraisers, PADI Dive Centers, and sponsors all come together to make this important work possible. The examples above barely graze the surface of what our global community does daily to protect marine environments around the world. We will continue fighting for our beautiful, blue ocean – together. To learn more about your donations at work, read the PADI AWARE Foundation 2023 Financial Report here. Thank you for creating ocean change with us! 

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