How Can We Protect More of Our Oceans?

For more than two decades, scientists have been telling us that Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the keys to long term ocean health. While some debated their worth early on, today there’s little dispute. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, MPAs with full protection have four times as much life (biomass). Species grow larger and reproduce proportionately more. MPAs and the areas around them recover more quickly from environmental damage, and (along with fishery management) have higher fish catches — so much so that commercial fishing comes out ahead despite the loss of fishable area.

While established as big wins for everyone, global governments are not on track to meet a U.N. goal to have 10% of the world’s ocean under full protection by 2020. Officially, we’re at just under 6%, but some say it’s really under 4% because some declared MPAs have no enforcement and nothing’s changed.

Moreton Bay Hope Spot Anemone Fish – Photo By Chis Roelfsema

But thanks to Hope Spots, we can help catch up and get ahead of the curve. Hope Spots, if you’re not familiar, were conceived by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with coordination and oversight by Mission Blue, a not-for-profit organization Dr. Earle founded to unite people and organizations for this cause. Hope Spots are unique marine areas identified as particularly distinct due to the diversity of species found there, the habitat’s importance for reproduction, threats from human activity, community economic needs or any other attribute that makes a location central to marine environmental health.

The idea is to conserve and preserve Hope Spots by leveraging public perception and attention so they receive appropriate protection (not necessarily becoming MPAs, and some Hope Spots are already MPAs). As you’d expect, the PADI organization formally partnered with Mission Blue in 2017, adding the weight of 26 million+ PADI Diver voices to the Hope Spot cause. Thanks to Dr. Earle, Hope Spots are a conspicuous example of how one person with a great idea can inspire millions to unite across borders and cultures for a common purpose.

Global Hope Spots map. Photo: Mission Blue

Today, there are almost 100 existing and proposed Hope Spots, and they are important, even though preserving them will not, in itself, halt global climate change, clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, etc. These bigger problems call for big, broad and deep social changes (that are not impossible), but we still need Hope Spots for several reasons:

  • By creating areas with proven biological productivity, they help us buy time addressing some of these challenges. For example, Hope Spots won’t solve overfishing, but by providing areas in which fish reproduction functions unchecked, we prop up fish populations as we sort through the management issues.
  • Hope Spots help preserve biodiversity. Some scientists see this as helping the ocean bounce back with as many species as possible as we make positive changes. Others, accepting that some change is permanent, see biodiversity as central to marine ecology. That is, some coral species tolerate heat better than others; having a diverse genetic supply of such species may be important in a warmer ocean.
  • Hope Spots are inspirational and visible. Hope Spots draw attention. They remind communities just how close and personal ocean threats are, but that we can (and must) act to offset them. As a source of local pride, Hot Spots inspire area divers and ocean advocates to speak up for and fight for them. Mission Blue, PADI and other supporters use social media to highlight Hope Spot stories to make and keep them in the broad public eye.

As a diver, you can support the PADI organization, Mission Blue and others united behind Hope Spots. You can nominate a Hope Spot, and you can participate in events promoting/protecting a Hope Spot (many led by PADI dive shops or instructors, and may tie in Project AWARE as well). Of course, you can contribute to Hope Spot funding – check out mission-blue.org. If you live near or visit a Hope Spot, talk about it in person and on social media – especially with those who may not be aware of it. Finally, get involved with Project AWARE and your local PADI dive operation to make every dive count. Millions of people like you and me passionately preserving, conserving and restoring the ocean is the best hope there is.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Force for Good: the Reachers and Teachers

The planet’s environmental health is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Looking at the innovation, initiatives and social ground swell happening on all fronts, we know we can rise to the challenge through dedication, focus, tenacity and importantly, by working on hearts and minds as well as preservation and restoration. Involving kids – the coming generations who will inherit the Earth – is crucial for our future. Global conservation is making great strides, but a sustainable future demand that it becomes an ongoing mindset that expands and gets passed on.

And, it’s happening, thanks to divers who reach and teach youngsters to share a passion that goes beyond diving to protecting and restoring the underwater world. In Tahiti, the Moorea Coral Gardeners – a growing team of youngsters (and some not-so-youngsters) – freedives to replant coral to reverse damage to Moorea, Tahiti’s incredible reefs (still awesome, by the way). But, they go further, educating local youth about why all the world’s coral reefs are environmentally and economically important, and need preservation. The Gardeners started as a local youth coral restoration project and now, through social media, they touch lives everywhere with an age-spanning team of international professional athletes, actors, and media stars.

The U.S.-based Kids Sea Camp, founded by PADI Instructor Margo Peyton, involves youngsters starting at age 4 (snorkeling) at some of diving’s best and most popular south Pacific and Caribbean destinations. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at Kids Scuba Syed Abd Rahman is on a parallel mission, bringing new talent into diving’s ranks by uniting ocean and coral conservation with diver training. Both groups introduce youth to wonderous, eye-opening underwater adventures while embracing diving’s higher purpose as the underwater world’s ambassadors and protectors. Still other divers reach kids wherever they are; in Koh Tao, Guy Corsellis talks with kids at the Koh Tao International Primary School about marine life, how it behaves, why it’s important and how to be kind to the environment.

There are many examples like these, and there need to be more because through involvement, engagement and example, young divers learn that the ocean and coral reefs are not just awesome, but threatened. They learn why and, most importantly, what we can all do about it – and we’re talking about more than coral. Showing our youth the underwater world and coral reefs is the best place to start in building a global culture that lives harmoniously with the global environment. People who experience coral reefs come to care about them quickly – and because these are the world’s environmental barometers, it’s often where we see subtle changes first. People focused in preserving this fragile environment will take on the bigger environmental issues because almost all of them ultimately affect the coral reefs. In other words, to preserve and restore the coral, we really have to preserve and restore the world environment.

Let’s applaud the reachers and teachers who motivate young people to embrace the underwater world, but I challenge all of us to also beone of them. Share your diving experiences with the kids in your life – at schools, youth centers, clubs, neighborhood, home — anywhere you cross paths. Explain why the oceans, reefs and the creatures living there are special and important, and how choices like reusing and recycling make a difference. Offer to introduce them to a dive instructor if you’re not one yet, or teach them to dive if you are.

Then, watch their eyes light up when they see, hear and feel what you and I have come to love so much. It’s one of the most rewarding ways to contribute to a better future.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Divers Already Make a Difference

When you hear reports about overfishing, global climate change, coral bleaching, shark finning . . . and the list goes on . . . it’s tempting to question whether the situation is hopeless. Will we have coral reefs in 30 years? Will anything be living in the seas in 50 years?

Yes, and yes. The seas face formidable challenges, but they have formidable allies – you, me and more than 25 million other divers around the world among them. It’s not just that you and your fellow divers can make difference, but that you’re already making a difference through personal efforts like recycling, responsibly consuming only sustainable seafood, reducing our carbon footprints and campaigning to protect endangered marine animals. These are vital efforts, none of which are wasted, with millions (and growing) of divers and nondivers doing these – which is great. But, compared to some outdoor groups, divers raise the bar for environmental stewardship and leadership. Beyond the forefront of conservation and preservation, divers are at the forefront of restoration.

Did you know that, working alongside scientists, divers help grow and replace coral? Use 3D printing to create artificial structures where real coral and coral species can live? Remove debris (like plastics!) from almost every dive site? Replant mangroves, sea grasses and other vegetation vital to coral and oceanic health? Use different methods to protect and repopulate turtles, fish and other species? Gather data we need to identify and implement ongoing and new solutions? Teach kids and cultures what we’re learning and that we do make a difference so that saving and restoring the planet continues, expands and strengthens? These are not small local experiments – these are fins-on-the-ground, proven-results initiatives in action.

The truth is, we face a much bigger threat than the issues facing the seas, and it is this: loss of hope. We don’t want our heads in the sand, but let’s not lose perspective amid the doom and gloom. There are thousands of healthy coral reefs and other dive sites around the world. By staying informed, innovative and engaged, we can not only visit these, but preserve them, learn from them and leverage them to rebuild and restore.

I believe in realistic optimism and hopeful future, partly because the data support them, but also because really, we have no choice. With hopelessness comes inaction, resignation and surrender, which solve nothing. Hope anchors our souls to what’s possible, to action, and to doing what needs to be done. This isn’t Pollyanna – no one expects the global environment to be like it was in 1618 – but it can be vibrant, healthy and growing. A healthy Earth with healthy seas can be the ultimate heritage we leave our children and theirs.

Literally every dive you and I make can be a step towards that goal — with that in mind, remember that 15-23 September is AWARE Week. Please join the 25 million (and growing) divers who are fighting to restore our ocean planet. If you’re not yet involved with an AWARE event, please click the link and join in: http://www.padi.com/aware-week/join.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Riding a Whale Shark? Outrageous and Unacceptable!

Unbelievable! Maybe you’ve seen the viral video of scuba divers in Indonesia riding a whale shark? In this day and age, someone has the nerve to do something like this? It makes me furious!

This kind of behavior is not okay for anyone, anywhere, anytime, but especially unacceptable for us divers. It’s a big deal – not just for the poor animal being mugged to exhaustion by divers amid its survival struggles (though that is a supreme part of it), but for the entire dive community. We’re supposed to be the ambassadors of the underwater world – the collective voice of care and concern that speaks up to protect our endangered seas from abuses like overfishing, plastic debris, shark finning and wide-scale pollution. Marine Animal Protection is one of PADI’s Pillars of Change, and I know the vast majority – probably more than 99.9% – of divers would never do something like this, and actively support what the dive community’s doing to protect the oceans.

But, this video paints us as hypocrites who exploit marine animals for our own entertainment – but not only that, these divers were breaking international and local laws (whale sharks have been protected by Indonesian law since 2013) that the dive community has been breaking its back to help put in place. Researchers think that whale sharks have declined 63% in the Indo-Pacific in the last 75 years, around 30% in the Atlantic, with a 50% reduction overall in the last decade. This is why IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) considers the whale shark endangered.

Whale Sharks are intelligent marine animals, seeing one suffering at the hands of joy riding scuba divers is outrageous! You should be outraged too – and I know many of you are as evidenced  by the thousands of enraged posts this video prompted and continues to prompt. I’ve noted reports that the divers (or some of them) have been arrested, and we’ll trust Indonesian law to be just. The arrests themselves show that the issue and law are taken seriously – as they should be.

Please speak up if you have not yet. The world needs to know that this isn’t us. This isn’t diving. Your voice matters – as Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good [people] to do nothing.” Silence is often taken as acceptance – and that cannot stand! If any nondivers you know saw the video, tell them it shows unacceptable, irresponsible behavior. Your personal contact delivering the message makes a big difference – it is a voice of authority because you’re a scuba diver, freediver or both. We can all help turn this negative incident into positive change by educating divers and nondivers about the Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism Guide jointly produced by Project AWARE, WWF and Manta Trust.

Like Dr. Seuss’ Lorax – speaking for the trees, we are divers, speaking for the seas. We are champions of our ocean planet, so let’s act like it. Please help spread the word that the diving family is a force for good in the world, and we don’t and won’t tolerate these kinds of behaviors.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Dive Shops: The Heart of the Dive Industry

Scuba diving shops are the heart of the dive community. Owned and operated by good folks who have dedicated their lives to keeping the porch light on for all of us in diving, they ensure that we always have the service, training, travel, equipment and advice we want and need as divers. It’s the dive shop around the corner that establishes and nurtures long-term relationships with divers and the same shops we go back to time and time again because they’ve earned our trust and we see them as our neighbors. They best embody the diving lifestyle, having sacrificed a great deal to be there for us at a local level across the world, and they deserve our support and loyalty.

These days, it’s not easy to be a specialty retailer, with many stresses and threats to their survival and prosperity. What separates those who do survive and prosper? A million variations, but basically its embracing the eworld coupled with products/services/customer experiences that are impossible or substantially disadvantageous online. Easy example – Starbucks. You order your iced Macchiato online, but do you have it shipped? No, you pick it up – central to the Starbucks experience. You can buy their coffee online, but it’s not the same at home, nor likely would you without your prior in-store experiences.

Dive shops are the same. Like diving itself, learning to dive, investing in dive gear, interacting with other divers and getting ready for a group dive trip are personal experiences, not online experiences. You can start courses, set up schedules, order equipment and do a lot of other things online with your retail dive shop. But eventually you end up there because you want to. The people there are fun, they know their stuff and they make your dive experiences personal, rewarding adventures. They hook you up with the best gear for you, tailored to you (again, personal), and show you the best diving for what you love about diving (personal yet again). Diving is way better because of them.

The bottom line is that dive shops are the center of the diver experience where everything comes together. That’s not changing, and neither is the PADI philosophy of keeping divers connected to them. Dive retailers need our support and loyalty as they stand against ever-changing threats and pressures.

I don’t want to see a world where the local dive shops cannot survive. They are the stewards of local diving lifestyle and culture. In my book, that is precious and rare. It is supremely worth protecting.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

Diving’s Finest Hour

Over the last weeks, the world watched drama unfold in Thailand with the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave. It was an awe inspiring example of humanity at its best, focused on a single noble purpose. Setting aside titles and differences, some of the world’s top cave divers and other international experts selflessly converged there with their skills and resources. The Thai government wisely leveraged this, mobilizing its SEALs and internal resources, enabling the best-of-the-best to collaborate and apply their respective skills creatively and effectively in a difficult, dynamic situation.

To say that I take pride in what the dive community did is an understatement – this was diving’s “Apollo 13” – action and focus propelled by the unshakeable conviction that those boys would not die on diving’s watch. But, unlike Apollo 13, the rescuers had to go into “space” themselves, and the tragic loss of the Thai SEAL, Saman Kunan, highlights the difficulties, dangers and risks the rescuers faced and accepted. On behalf of the global PADI family, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who was part of this – whether you hazarded the cave with the boys, or hauled cylinders to and from the site. To borrow from the Apollo 13 movie, it was diving’s finest hour. And, it took all of you to make it happen.

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

A Message from Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide

American author Mark Twain popularized a saying about innuendo, assumptions and conjectured numbers used to prop up slander:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Twain’s words certainly apply to a recent internet rumor that PADI is up for sale again. It is not. There are no discussions anywhere at any level to sell or buy PADI. The news on this is that there is no news.

Normally, I ignore PADI hate-mongering and chitchat flitting about in social media. The internet spreads gossip faster and wider than at any time in history, but most of us know propaganda and lies when we see them. Lacking substance to stand on, these typically erode quickly, so there’s no need to let them distract us. But in this case, speculation and perjure masqueraded as news (complete with “secret sources” – bless their hearts) so I’m setting the record straight.

As most in the dive industry knows, in 2017 the PADI organization secured support from a strong international consortium of long-term individual and group North American and European investors. This group does not involve itself in PADI’s day-to-day decisions or operations, but fully supports the PADI family’s missions to lead the dive industry and help shape a positive future for our oceans. We’re blessed with a growing group of exceptional managers and employees in international offices, but final authority and responsibility stops on my desk.

The PADI organization will continue to invest in the right products, people and programs that enable PADI Members to succeed by fulfilling divers’ interests, dreams and desires, and that support the PADI Four Pillars of Change, PADI Foundation and Project AWARE and other initiatives that make the world a better place.

For those interested, here’s some nonfiction (I won’t call it news because it’s been true for quite awhile): PADI Members make PADI the strongest brand in diving, and personally leverage the power of divers as a force for strong, positive change in ocean health, conservation and education in more than 183 countries and territories. Honestly, I’m humbled to serve the PADI membership – a positive, proactive family of individuals, retailers, resort operators and divers around the world who are the real stewards, and hands and feet of PADI’s missions. They exemplify where all of us in the industry really need to be putting our effort.

Thank you.

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

 

The Adaptable Prevail

Drew Richardson staff shotPut “adaptive” and “PADI” together and it conjures images of people overcoming disabilities and challenges, and rightly so. Diving is one of those rare, rich experiences that can help heal the body, heart and soul, whether someone’s dealing with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), paraplegia, cerebral palsy, amputation – the list goes on, as you know. With its performance-based design focused on what people can do instead of what they can’t, the PADI® System’s adaptive approach has opened diving and the underwater world to thousands.

Thousands? I should say millions. The PADI System’s adaptability isn’t new, and it benefits 25 million of us and counting – that’s every single PADI Diver. It has made PADI the world’s dominating force in diving because we all have challenges, needs, interests, preferences and desires. Only a system that adapts to the infinite individuality of learning and teaching can address all of these distinct variables.

What makes the PADI System stand apart is its ability to fi t a standardized diving instructional system to so many people individually, in so many ways. It is international, cross-cultural, multilingual and transgenerational, so that beyond accommodating varied learning needs and preferences it builds a bridge that makes us one amid our differences. Take five PADI Divers from China, Italy, Mexico, Russia and Vietnam and put them on a boat for a day. They share a language even if they don’t, because they “speak” diving and the ocean, thanks to the PADI System you and your fellow PADI Professionals apply every day.

The PADI System succeeds because it stands on a solid, unshakeable but adaptable philosophical and instructional foundation that retains our core values while evolving as emerging technologies and social trends change how we meet individual needs, one student at a time. As the PADI family stands up for ocean health and marine animal protection, and champions the power of diving in community, and health and wellness, we need to recognize that, hand in hand with tenacity, this is where our strength lies. Overcoming challenges requires adapting what we do, whether it’s to help one person with an individual need or one planet with a social need.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-tsu said, “An army that cannot yield will be defeated. A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail.” The PADI family has emerged as a force for good because we don’t try to live in someone’s idealized version of what the world should be. Rather, we are supple. We adapt and change to meet what the real world blows our way. Together, we always have, and I expect, always will.

Good luck, good teaching and good diving,

Drew Richardson Ed.D.
PADI President and CEO

DEMA 2017: Passing the Torch

By Tara Bradley Connell

The DEMA Show 2017 kicked things off at the PADI® Social with an inspirational speech by Dr. Drew Richardson, the President and Chief Executive Officer for PADI Worldwide.

And while discussing innovations in the dive industry and the importance of dive education is always a popular topic amongst the dive community, this year, Richardson took the message a little deeper.


Here’s a look at some of the takeaways from Richardson’s message:

THE POWER OF DIVING: STATS

  • PADI certifications to date – over 25 million
  • PADI professionals worldwide – 133,000
  • Median age for new divers – 29 years old

Richardson started things off by noting that every day members of the dive community are enabling others to fulfill their desire to explore.

“We are enablers of exploration of inner space,” he said. “Outer space exploration is selective for certain people but we together have the opportunity to explore and be part of the inner space mission.”

He then referred to a quote from English veteran broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough:

“I can mention many moments that were unforgettable and revelatory, but the most single revelatory three minutes was the first time I put on scuba gear and dived on a coral reef. It’s just the unbelievable fact that you can move in three dimensions.”

THE MISSION

Richardson then focused on the importance of PADI professionals as leaders who have the ability to create a global community of competent divers that are champions for the water planet.

“We are the leaders but with that comes responsibility,” he said. “We must teach divers to be ambassadors for the underwater planet. We have a responsibility to be good ancestors.”

With a focus on “divers are the doers,” Richardson then went on to discuss PADI’s Four Pillars of Change.

FOUR PILLARS OF CHANGE

Marine Animal Protection

By joining forces with organizations like Project AWARE®, PADI is working to combat marine debris, protect sharks and rays, and instill the importance of sustainable fishing.

“With plastic, pollution, and overfishing, there are many issues to address, but it’s not too late,” Richardson said. “We can reverse some of the damage that has been done by working together to conserve and protect marine resources.”

Ocean Health

PADI has also solidified relationships with Mission Blue, founded by Sylvia Earle, by joining in her efforts toward the promotion of Hope Spots.

The purpose of Hope Spots is to set aside dedicated ocean areas with the hope that less stress on the environment will reverse negative human impact, promote productivity and prevent further damage.

In addition, PADI is working with Project AWARE to rescue entangled animals from debris, and remove and recycle ghost gear, lost and abandoned fishing gear that causes damage to marine life.

People and Community

Richardson then went on to address the PADI community and the PADI AmbassaDivers™ that have made an impact in their local areas.

Noted PADI AmbassaDivers included Jack Fishman, Ernst Van Der Pol, Edgardo Ochoa and Andre Miller.

“These folks are making an impact and we want to get these stories out,” Richardson said. “The point is to tell the world their stories and invite them in. We want to tell your story, too.”

Richardson then addressed PADI AmbassaDivers that have made a difference in the world of healing and wellness by discussing the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course.

Healing and Wellness

“So many are paying it forward by making diving more accessible and more tangible for more people. In doing so, they are transforming lives and making the impossible, possible,” he said.

To coincide with that message, a short video showcased some pioneers in the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course with appearances by Alana Nichols, Parker Timberland and Leo Morales.

Morales summed up the message perfectly by saying:

“The most important thing is to do what you like to do and have some passion. That’s what scuba diving is for me,” he said. “The ocean gave me back my life.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

As PADI continues to invest in the Four Pillars of Change, education is still the foundation for the future of diving.

By globalizing the education program, the courses will be even more consistent and available in no less than 25 languages across multiple devices. With that, PADI’s goal is to optimize the process for a streamlined experience with long-term success and minimal paperwork.

“We want the user to have a seamless end-to-end consumer journey,” Richardson said.

Before closing, Richardson turned again to the PADI AmbassaDivers in attendance while encouraging future AmbassaDivers to share their stories.

“If we leave a nice footprint as an ancestor, those that go after us will carry that flag toward a sense of self that supersedes what most humans have the opportunity to experience on this planet,” Richardson said.

And with that, the bar was open and the steel drum band played – igniting the perfect start to another successful DEMA Show and a newfound hope for the future.

Drew Richardson Engages Ocean Community at Blue Vision Summit 

PADI CEO Drew Richardson speaks at Blue Vision Summit

PADI President and CEO Drew Richardson took part in the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC, USA, last month, speaking about the enhanced role that coastal communities can play in ocean conservation and stewardship. The summit, which brings together ocean conservation leaders, was focused on strengthening a sustainable “blue economy” and addressing challenges of a changing ocean and climate.

PADI CEO Drew Richardson speaks at Blue Vision Summit

“Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threatening the world oceans. That said, I’m a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation,” Richardson said to the group of 500 scientists, explorers and leaders in attendance. “My life philosophy is to remain optimistic and focused on a ‘future hope.’ In my mind, there is no other option.”

The PADI organization became involved in the Blue Vision Summit to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations toward improving ocean conservation efforts through various approaches, including education and marine recreation. The summit also provides a platform to influence policy and implement ocean health solutions by connecting with change makers and elected officials.

“It was an honor to attend the Blue Vision Summit and engage with so many passionate and committed professionals,” said Richardson. “At PADI, we are recruiting and engaging millions of new divers, training them well to be confident and comfortable, encouraging and enabling them to seek diving adventures and explore the planet’s underwater realm. Divers receive a clear message to pay it forward as good ocean stewards who protect marine life. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to achieve these ends.”

Speaking of PADI’s deepened commitment to ocean health and conservation through the Four Pillars of Change program, Richardson said, “We train nearly one million new divers each year who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change. PADI Divers are actively becoming as a force for good and driving toward a healthier ocean on local, national and international levels. The PADI organization is committed to being a global, passionate force that creates a preferred future with healthier oceans.”

Note: Read more from Richardson about ocean conservation and advocacy in this recent Forbes article.    

Be Best. Be PADI – The Way The World Learns To Dive®