“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
– Dr. Sylvia Earle
Every human on this planet needs the ocean, whether they realise it or not. As a scuba diver, you may have seen firsthand the challenges our oceans face from pollution, overfishing, or other human-created problems.
In a crisis, it can be hard to imagine how one person can make a difference. Luckily, we have some inspiring examples. Read the stories of PADI® Women who are protecting the ocean by:
- Inviting divers to participate in important scientific research
- Educating young people in coastal communities
- Sharing their underwater experiences
- Running one of the most unique dive centres on the planet
Conservationist, Filmmaker, Photographer, Expedition Leader
Shark Warrior and PADI AmbassaDiver™ Lesley Rochat walked away from a corporate career to become an ocean defender. Her tour company, Shark Warrior Adventures, helps people reconnect with nature through ocean adventures, dive expeditions, wildlife experiences and educational programmes.
Lesley is also the principal environmental photojournalist at AfriOceans – a nonprofit organization she founded in 2003. If your PADI certification card features a shark and a bait ball, you might be carrying one of Lesley’s most famous images in your pocket. Her videos have hundreds of thousands of views and no doubt changed a few minds about sharks.
When asked what divers can do to support healthy oceans, Lesley recommends sharing your love for scuba diving with young people. She said, “Our youth are our future. Instilling love and appreciation for the oceans at an early age helps nurture the next generation of ocean guardians. By promoting ocean conservation through experience, you replace fear and uncertainty with love, admiration, and a desire to protect our oceans.”
Nayantara (Tara) Jain
Executive Director ReefWatch Marine Conservation
PADI AmbassaDiver™ Tara Jain fell in love with the ocean at age 16 and became a PADI Instructor in 2011. After witnessing the reefs she loved deteriorate, Tara decided to take action. She earned a Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, USA and is now the Executive Director of ReefWatch Marine Conservation.
ReefWatch, a nonprofit organisation based in India, conducts research, education and outreach. Some of their activities include:
- Beach cleanups in Mumbai
- Coral reef monitoring in the Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands
- Documentary filmmaking
- Education programmes in schools across the country
- SCUBA training for scientists
- Training young adults in the Andaman islands to restore and monitor reefs
Tara also helped establish a marine megafauna rescue and response centre on the coast of Karnataka, India and created “Blue India,” an underwater imagery competition. Her conservation activities have been featured by Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue India, GQ India and other major publications.
Co-owner The Fifth Point Diving Centre
PADI Course Director Nic Emery left her dive instructor gig in tropical Malaysia to co-found a dive shop in Northumberland, England. Unique activities, eco-conscious diver training, and even the building itself make The Fifth Point Diving Centre one-of-a-kind.
The shop itself was built from reclaimed materials. Used pallets were upcycled into retail displays, and their training pool was once an ROV testing tank.
Every dive student at Fifth Point Diving earns their Project AWARE Specialty and Dive Against Debris certification as part of their basic scuba training. They also get their pick of a limited-edition Project AWARE certification card.
The Fifth Point Diving Centre is also the only dive shop (that we know of) putting lobsters back in the water instead of taking them out. Check out the video below:
Learn more about The Fifth Point Diving Centre’s many environmental initiatives on their website. See pics of their shop and their adorable doggo by following @the_fifth_point on Instagram or Facebook.
PADI Divemaster and Director, ScubaScience
ScubaScience allows recreational divers to participate in ongoing scientific studies about marine conservation – from home or by taking part in an expedition. “Divers interested in collecting data may join our research expeditions and/or they can search for articles, read and summarize information that is shared with all volunteer divers, leading to greater interest and better understanding of ocean health,” said Anne-Josée.
Last summer, Anne-Josée led a research expedition to the Sea of Cortez. Canadian university students and recreational divers spent a week on the Quino el Guardian liveaboard collecting data. Two scientific abstracts were written based on the divers’ work and a third is on its way. One abstract has been officially accepted for a poster session at the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) convention in 2020.
ScubaScience also organized an internship expedition to Bayahibe. Divers interested in marine biology participated in a treasure hunt-style Dive Against Debris and received awards for their participation in marine conservation.
Divers interested in participating in ScubaScience’s scientific work or online journal club can connect on Facebook or send an email to [email protected].
Environmental Journalist, & Ambassador for Bioguia
For environmental journalist Martina Alvarez, words and images are powerful tools for change. Her goal in life is, “to create awareness about the ocean and its marine life through storytelling….to inspire people to understand, care and take actions to protect the incredible blue universe.”
Martina uses her knowledge and experience as a PADI Instructor to explain the importance of conservation to people who feel disconnected to the ocean. She also organises monthly underwater cleanups with her local dive center, Bocas Pirates Dive Center.
Working with young women is of special importance to Martina. “Unfortunately, in many coastal communities, women do not dare to go into the water; they do not know how to swim even though water surrounds them,” Martina said.
“Inspiring girls to connect with the ocean empowers them and gives them more working options. Environmental education helps them see the relationship between conservation and their communities,” said Martina.
She encourages divers to support ocean health by, “reading articles and watching documentaries such as Mission Blue, No Plastic Oceans, Sea of Shadows and Searching for Coral. Share what you learn and your passion for the ocean on social networks. Explain the importance of using less plastic and making eco-friendly consumption decisions.”
Learn more about Martina on her website, almarvoy.com, or on Instagram @oceanomartina
Owner, Tioman Dive Centre & Ambassador for Green Fins
Rosie Cotton is a living example of the phrase, “think globally, act locally. At her dive shop, Tioman Dive Centre in Malaysia, staff members share their passion for conservation with visiting divers from around the world.
“We aim for everyone who comes through our doors, to depart with more awareness about their environmental impact than they had previously,” Rosie said. “This happens through informal conversations, when divers ask for restaurant recommendations for example.”
“This can then lead onto a conversation about fishing methods and reviewing a brochure from WWF called Save our SeaFood, which explains different fishing methods and how to make sustainable seafood choices,” Rosie explained. “I try never to tell people what they should and should not do. I aim to educate without being condescending. It is, however, a running joke, I often hear ‘so do you want extra prawns on that?’”
Under Rosie’s leadership, Tioman Dive Centre has taken steps to minimise its environmental impact locally, including:
- Exclusively using eco-friendly cleaning products
- Replacing the 2-stroke engines on their three dive boats with more efficient 4-stroke engines
- Explaining proper diving behavior and environmental best practices to guests
- Hosting conservation events for local villages across the island
- Following sustainable diving guidelines developed by the United Nations Environment Programme
In 2019, Tioman Dive Centre received Reef-World Foundation’s prestigious Green Fins award. Learn more about Tioman Dive Centre on their website, and follow Rosie and her crew on Facebook for Friday fun facts.
“One candle can light a thousand other candles and still remain lit itself. Be that candle.”
Feeling inspired? We hope so. Looking for ways to support ocean health even when you’re not diving? Here are some ideas from our friends at Project AWARE.