6 Top Tips to Help Dive Operators Reduce Marine Litter

It’s no secret that plastic pollution and marine debris is a huge problem threatening the health of our oceans. That’s why PADI is involved in an industry-wide initiative called Mission 2020, which aims to inspire dive-related businesses and charities to commit to reducing their plastic use.

PADI has pledged to lessen its dependency on packaging to minimise the plastic footprint of hundreds of thousands of divers each year. But what can you do as a dive operator to reduce plastic pollution and marine litter?

Here are a few top tips from the team at The Reef-World Foundation (international co-ordinators of Green Fins) to help you play your part in preserving the oceans you enjoy diving in and for future generations:

1. Organise Underwater Clean-ups
Marine litter is a huge problem but dive operators can lessen its impact not only by refusing single-use items, reducing waste and recycling but also by conducting Dive Against Debris® surveys or even organising underwater clean-up events.

It’s important to avoid damaging the environment in the process of removing any marine debris so make sure your divers maintain good buoyancy, watch their fins, make sure they don’t have any gauges trailing that might touch or damage the reef and don’t touch anything that isn’t trash. Have them work slowly and carefully as a buddy team with one person holding the trash bag and the other wearing gloves and collecting the trash. Divers will need to adjust their buoyancy throughout the dive – remember, as they pick up more rubbish, they are going to get heavier! It’s also a good idea to record data about the trash you collect (Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris App). You can find a handy guide to organising underwater clean-ups here.

2. Ditch the Masking Tape
Using masking tape to indicate a full tank is a common practice in many dive schools. But have you ever thought about what happens to that tape once it’s been torn off the tank neck? Tape can easily become marine debris by blowing into the ocean. Why not make permanent, reusable caps for your scuba tanks? It’s really simple – all you need is some plastic hosing and good quality rope.

3. Think About Lunches
We all know diving makes you hungry – and there’s nothing like providing some tasty snacks for your guest’s surface interval. But have you ever considered how your quick bite might affect the ocean? Plastic-wrapped sweeties and refreshments served in disposable containers all add to the plastic problem. But it needn’t be that way – clients will appreciate your efforts to preserve the marine environment by serving fresh fruit, coconut pieces and snacks in reusable lunch boxes!

4. Bin It!
As well as reducing your waste, it’s important to make sure any trash that’s created during diving trips is disposed of responsibly. Make sure your dive shops and boats have adequate ashtrays and appropriately sized bins (with lids – the bin is no use if the trash is still swept into the ocean by the wind!) and, wherever possible, separate and recycle your rubbish.

5. Adopt the Green Fins Code of Conduct or Become a Member
Green Fins is a global initiative, coordinated internationally by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment, which protects coral reefs by ensuring environmentally friendly diving and snorkelling practices.

Dive and snorkel centres operating in active Green Fins locations can apply for membership by signing the membership form and pledging to follow the 15 environmental practices of the Green Fins Code of Conduct. Active members will then be trained, assessed and certified annually and provided with all the resources they need to reduce their environmental impact. If Green Fins is not available in your area, adopt the Code of Conduct voluntarily.

Individual dive guides can also become Green Fins certified by completing the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course – whether or not their dive shop is a member.

Divers themselves can choose to book with Green Fins members as well as donating to support the development and implementation of Green Fins’ work to make coral reefs more resilient when faced with greater threats such as climate change.

Mission 2020 Logo

6. Make a Mission 2020 Pledge
Changing your business practices to reduce plastics is not just good for the ocean; divers care about the ocean and look for businesses who are making strides to protect marine life. So, better environmental practices will lead to increased customer loyalty, higher rates of return customers and great online reviews (which, in turn, attract more business). If you run a diver operator and are inspired to help improve the health of our oceans by reducing your plastic consumption, make a pledge to support Mission 2020.

 

Guest Post Written By: Melissa Hobson, The Reef-World Foundation

Education is Essential

Historian Daniel Boorstin once said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know,” and that applies to the threats to our oceans and global environment. The threats are not always obvious. Before you protest that they are, let me put it this way. I agree that plastic debris are a major threat, but how can we educate our communities that this is the case? Many people on this planet may not have seen the plastic pollution in the world that we have. Maybe a littered beach, but how do folks learn that it’s a global, not local, problem? It is clear from data-driven temperature and climate graphs that average global temperatures are rising, but how do we help our communities accept that this is an urgent, very real problem – that the upward temperature change rate is unprecedented and has continued steadily since we’ve started measuring it? Similarly, we know that recycling helps, and dumping motor oil on the street hurts, but how do we know?

The reality is that it is difficult to see global problems and solutions alone because they’re too big. We make them visible together, communicating and consolidating what we learn locally into the worldwide mosaic that shows us what’s going on globally. It’s how we know the problems, their magnitude and what works or should work to solve them. The scale of global threats means that education isn’t merely important, but essential in bringing about the social changes needed to restore and protect the environment. Unless we’re taught, most of us can’t know about them, much less our roles in solving them.

Thankfully, education is happening and it works. In a previous blog, I highlighted PADI® Pros who educate youngsters about threats to the seas and teach rising generations to prioritize ocean health – after all, saving the seas is really saving us. And, studies find that teaching conservation can start effectively establishing these essential values as young as age four.

In 2015, the Global Education Monitoring report published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) found that “improving knowledge, instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to help individual reconsider environmentally harmful lifestyles and behavior.” Educating across age ranges is particularly important amid cultures that have not traditionally needed to worry about the environment, but fortunately, recognizing that today we all have to worry about it, a growing number of countries require environmental education, and it’s working. Among them, India has environmental education programs targeted for learners from preschool through adult. It’s estimated that since 2003, in some form or other, these programs have reached 300 million students. The results have been varied and mixed, but generally good and trending positive, these programs are shaping attitudes about individual behaviors, choices and sustainability.

Admittedly, some have questioned the ability to reshape values past adolescence, but a 2017 study in People’s Republic of China studied the effect of environmental education on 287 older (college age) students at Minzu University, Beijing, and found “notable positive effects on environmental attitude.” Beyond this study, China has demonstrated the difference education can make when it supports, and is supported by, government efforts and policy. Formerly the number one consumer of shark fin soup (shark fin soup accounts for about 73 million sharks killed annually), a Wild Aid report says that since 2011 consumption has fallen 80 percent in China.

According to the report, declines in public shark fin demand in China resulted from awareness campaigns (education) coupled with the government’s ban on it for official functions and general discouragement of consuming shark fin. Retired pro basketball player Yao Ming is particularly credited with helping through a highly publicized public education outreach in his home country. Apparently, many people living in China didn’t even know what shark fin soup is (the translated name is “fish-wing-soup”), but now surveys show that more than 90 percent support banning it.

Although this is good news for sharks, the Wild Aid report also shows that shark fin consumption is still high and increasing in other countries. Why? As many as half of the consumers/potential consumers are unaware that shark consumption is threatening the animals and poses health hazards. The fix? China shows that education – similar campaigns in these countries – would likely be a great start.

This highlights a crucial point: We’re not all scuba instructors, college professors nor school teachers, but we are all educators. Whether it’s a dinner conversation with friends or gently correcting misconceptions in social media, it’s our responsibility as the oceans’ ambassadors to inform and influence others to see and understand the problems, and how we can make better choices to keep Earth sustainable.

Don’t underestimate your influence in doing this – as a diver, you’ve seen the underwater world’s wonder and fragility, and likely some of the damage, first-hand. What you can teach is compelling, and passes the sustainability imperative to our rising generation of educators. As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

 

Dr. Drew Richardson
PADI President & CEO

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®