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Ocean Conservation: PADI Scuba Divers Take Action and Invite You to Join

Oceans
​EcoWatch writer and diver Tiffany Duong holds up discarded fishing line.
EcoWatch writer Tiffany Duong holds up discarded fishing line removed from a coral reef head during a Dive Against Debris. Sara Nilsson / Ocean Rebels

PADI (Professional Association of Scuba Divers) is inviting you to dive in (literally) to make positive changes for our ocean. The scuba diving behemoth and PADI AWARE Foundation, a non-profit public charity driving change for our ocean at the local level, are celebrating the fourth annual AWARE Week from Sept. 18 - 26 this year.


During this event, PADI dive centers, resorts and professional divers from around the world host local events to advance conservation awareness and engagement.

"Aware Week started in 2018 to bring together divers all over the world to be a voice for the ocean and act for change," said Kristin Valette Wirth, chief brand and membership officer for PADI Worldwide. "PADI and PADI AWARE Foundation believe in the power of people to help address threats facing our ocean today and that large-scale transformation starts with individuals acting locally for global impact."

This year's explicit conservation mandates include advancing PADI's Conservation Blueprint, an initiative encouraging conservation action in direct support of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Valette Wirth told EcoWatch. According to PADI, the focus will be on how to take PADI's existing Vulnerable Species Protection and Marine Debris programs "to the next level" by also addressing critical marine issues such as climate change, marine protected areas and coral reefs. These represent the five key components of PADI's Blueprint for Ocean Action and directly align with and support UN efforts.

On the marine debris front, PADI is inviting ocean enthusiasts and divers to collect trash from the shorelines and seafloor through its signature citizen-science diving program, Dives Against Debris. Everything collected is sorted, weighed and then added to a global database that can be used by marine researchers and policymakers for conservation action. The scuba organization hopes to use this data about what is entering our ocean to positively influence upstream policy changes to curb this flow.

"As divers, we have the skills and vantage point to gather data that no other community can," Valette Wirth explained to EcoWatch. "Around the world, more than 90,000 PADI Divers and Torchbearers for the ocean have removed and reported marine debris from underwater environments since 2011, representing the largest underwater citizen science database and movement for marine debris on the planet."

A diver removes a discarded face mask floating in the ocean during a dive. A diver removes a discarded face mask floating in the ocean during a dive. PADI

The impressive scale of data collected by the recreational dive community and its global nature allow for PADI AWARE to collaborate with scientists, researchers and independent research organizations to broaden and strengthen their data. In this way, marine debris trends and potential solutions can be addressed more quickly and effectively, Valette Wirth added.

Recently, data submitted from 118 different countries by PADI divers has been used in a global analysis of marine debris to identify marine debris hotspots and how they came to be. As different policy solutions are proposed, recreational scuba divers can help "in real time" through continued data collection that will speak to the effectiveness of any policies implemented, Valette Wirth said.

Essentially, PADI wants to galvanize the global diving community to clean our seas and put pressure on key decision makers to increase protections for the ocean, Valette Wirth said. Through the collective impact of their efforts, PADI believes global ocean impact can be achieved.

"Protecting the ocean requires the actions of everyone around the globe working together," said Valette Wirth. "Together with PADI AWARE Foundation, Seiko and our other partners in conservation, we recognize that anyone with passion for the ocean can become an ocean ambassador and contribute to worldwide efforts to save the ocean... AWARE Week 2021 will inspire people with a clear and effective path to action for the planet."

A diver removes and coils ghostline found on a coral reef. A novice Dive Against Debris participant removes and coils ghostline found on a coral reef during a Dive Against Debris. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

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