PADI AWARE’s new Dive Against Debris course is a revamped way to tackle an old problem: marine debris. Recently, I got a sneak peek at the new training and eLearning. Even if you’re familiar with the original, here are five reasons why the updated program is well worth your time. 

1. Local Impact: Still a Great Way to Help Our Oceans

First, PADI’s Dive Against Debris Specialty course remains one of the most effective ways to get engaged with ocean conservation. Since the original Dive Against Debris program began in 2011, over TWO MILLION pieces of trash have been removed from our waterways. 

Additionally, the information you learn is broadly applicable, no matter where you live. Moreover, the dive skills you gain can be used on any dive, anywhere (make #EveryDiveASurveyDive). 

2. eLearning Provides More Accessibility 

The new Dive Against Debris course includes an eLearning option. This is awesome, especially for travel diving, because it allows you to maximize your vacation. You complete the classroom portion at home, at your convenience, and then you complete the dive at your destination. 

A diver "studies" while underwater
eLearning is a great way to maximize your vacation dive time.

3. Easy-to-Complete One-Dive Specialty 

The Dive Against Debris Specialty remains stunningly simple – and effective. 

  1. Teach divers about the dangers that marine debris and plastics pose to our waters. 
  2. Train divers on safe and efficient ways to remove marine debris.
  3. Equip divers with the right tools – mesh bags, gloves, dive knives and lift bags. Then, take them diving!
  4. Sort, record and report everything collected using the PADI AWARE App*. Then, properly dispose of trash.

These steps are logical and well-laid out in the coursework. Once you arrive at a PADI Dive Center for your actual Dive Against Debris, you only need one dive to complete your specialty. Additionally, this dive counts towards your Advanced Open Water Diver certification.

Furthermore, the new course also encourages you to stay connected to the community, both with a MyOcean account on the new PADI AWARE App and as a PADI Torchbearer

4. Up-to-Date Facts Show Impact

The updated Dive Against Debris course included strong, updated facts. The three facts below (and how they were presented) had a lasting impact on me, personally. 

Students look on as a dive professional goes through the Dive Against Debris course on a screen.
The new Dive Against Debris course is more interactive, visual and informative. Photo credit: Tiffany Duong

Fact: Land-Based Trash Becomes Marine Debris

Did you know the marine debris problem starts on land? 80% of physical debris in our ocean comes from land-based sources. 80%! This fact alone made me consider how to shift my personal routine to create less waste and use less plastic. 

Fact: There Are Other Types of Pollutants

Historically, people assumed the seas’ natural processes could break down and eliminate pollutants. This is the antiquated idea that “the solution to pollution is dilution.” Unfortunately – for the planet and for us – this has proven untrue. In fact, more than 22 billion tons of chemical and nutrient pollutants enter the ocean each year. These include pesticides, fertilizers, detergents, oils, sewage, etc.

These chemicals lead to algal blooms, fish kills, breathing issues for humans and animals, skin conditions and other ailments. Until taking the new course, I had no idea the enormity of this runoff problem.

Chemical runoff and pollutants often lead to harmful algal blooms and red tides, like this one in Brazil.

Fact: No Debris is Useful Information, Too!

The new course also does a great job of setting expectations. When people sign up for a Dive Against Debris, they get excited to find “all the trash.” However, sometimes we end up finding little or nothing underwater. While some feel disappointed when this happens, the new course reminds us that this is a good thing! Our goal is to have a clean ocean, not just remove marine debris. Furthermore, the course highlights how “no trash” is also important data to collect and input. It helps to understand how long sites stay clear, when they were last visited, etc. 

In fact, this exact scenario happened on our second dive of the day! We dove on a protected reef and found only one piece of monofilament throughout the entire 45-minute dive!

5. Global Impact: Connecting the Dots Between Diving, Data and Policy

Truth be told, until I took the new program, I had no idea where, if or how Dive Against Debris data was used. As it turns out, the citizen science data collected and reported helps create targeted, effective solutions. There have even been two scientific papers published using surveys from Dives Against Debris!

It works when divers input survey data into a global database. Once you submit your data from a Dive Against Debris, you can even see your survey results on a Global Map! Scientists, researchers and policymakers then interpret the data. In this way, the data supports the development and implementation of policies to improve solid waste management, locally and globally. 

From the first published scientific paper using Dive Against Debris data, a general mismatch between shoreline debris and seafloor debris was found, while a correlation was found with items that entangle or sink like fishing line and plastic bags.

Learning how my own personal actions have contributed and will continue to contribute to tangible policy changes was so personally satisfying! It appealed to the former lawyer in me, and, afterward, I felt so empowered to make positive changes for our ocean. I truly loved this aspect of the new course!

Take the Course For Yourself!

The marine debris problem remains a leading challenge facing our ocean. This isn’t new news, but how the updated Dive Against Debris course and eLearning introduce this topic is refreshing. 

As divers, we are the frontline ambassadors and protectors of our beautiful blue planet. Moreover, the new Dive Against Debris program gives us useful tools to create lasting change. It’s gratifying, rewarding, tangible and important. So, check out the new course and tell us what you think!

Rainbow Reef dive professionals are all smiles after a succesful Dive Against Debris
A special thank you to Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo, FL for an awesome day piloting the new Dive Against Debris course! Their enthusiasm was visceral, contagious and inspiring. Photo credit: Tiffany Duong

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