In this week’s Community Spotlight, we chat with Caio Salles, a scuba diver in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil who is transforming action underwater into public policy changes.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
First of all, I am an ocean lover. Since when I was a child I used to surf and play at the beach with friends and relatives. In 1994, during a school trip, I rented a mask, snorkel, and fins and tried to free dive for the first time. I fell in love at the same time. I did my Open Water Scuba Diver Course and started my journey through scuba diving. Years later I studied journalism and worked on video producing. I went on to work for ESPN channels in Brazil traveling the world covering the World Surf League but paradoxically I was a bit out of the water, especially for scuba diving. It was then I decided to quit the job and follow my real passion. So, I created Verde Mar Project that aims to present the different initiatives for ocean conservancy around the world. I filmed a documentaries series about the Lionfish in the Caribean Sea, the sea turtle in Oahu, and the Manta Rays in Big Island, Hawaii. Meanwhile, I decided to start to take care of my own backyard, in Rio de Janeiro.
So, in April 2016 we started to Dive Against Debris in Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), just below the Sugar Loaf, one of the most visited tourist spots in Rio de Janeiro.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
I am PADI Divemaster and have always been enthusiastic about Project AWARE’s campaigns. When we started to Dive Against Debris in Praia Vermelha, I realized the incredible opportunity to get involved with the project and to be part of this amazing group of people that care about the ocean. So I joined Project AWARE's Adopt a Dive Site and started to send regular surveys from every cleanup dive we did.
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favorite underwater areas?
We have two big problems in Praia Vermelha:
- Fishing gear and ghost nets;
- Plastic debris.
Red Beach is one of the last spots close to Rio de Janeiro’s central area where it is possible to swim in fair water conditions. But the proximity to Guanabara Bay and the huge amount of people that frequent the beach brings issues to deal with.
Tell us about your work!
I participate in Dive Against Debris and Adopt a Dive Site with Project AWARE. As I said before, we adopted Praia Vermelha beach because it's the most popular beach dive site in Rio de Janeiro and one of the most important touristic spot in the “Marvelous City”. Is also my backyard, the place that I go almost every day.
So every month we Dive Against Debris! We've also now started a partnership with a local university that has an Environmental Sciences course. The idea is to use the data collect during the surveys to make a public policy proposal to deal with the problems we face there.
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
Our work with Project AWARE has allowed us to form local partnerships. We just got together with Lixo Zero (Zero Waste) Institute to make an educational program to be applied during the cleanup events. At the same time, another partner, Mar Adentro Institute, released a campaign “Know to Preserve” and will use our events to show people the biodiversity and beautiful life that exists here. The idea is that if the people know about the biodiversity that is there, they will preserve.
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
Project AWARE is a global initiative that brings together a lot of ocean enthusiasts, environmental activists, and scuba divers to be stewards for the ocean and the marine life. Especially for scuba divers, it is the “place” that we have to interchange ideas, learn and share knowledge and experiences. It really is a very a unique organization made by divers for divers. As soon as you join Project AWARE, you are embraced. You can make difference in your community with a great global support. I am very proud to be a part of it.