In this week’s Community Spotlight, Project AWARE catches up with Kate Wilkins, a scuba instructor in Adelaide, Australia.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
I am a scuba instructor and was working on a live aboard dive boat for a couple years and loved being so close to the ocean. When I started noticing how much it was changing and seeing how even small changes to the environment affect the marine life, I felt the need to do something to protect it. I love the diversity of marine life and feel that if we don't conserve it, we are going to lose a lot of it. I started doing clean up dives and Dive Against Debris surveys whenever I could because it’s something that as a diver, is well within my capabilities. It’s easy to do and is satisfying to know a small change is making a big difference.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
I have always been a big follower of Project AWARE and the great things you do for our oceans, so when I decided to start doing clean up dives, my first thought was to contact Project AWARE for advice and support. I began my campaign to dive and clean up marine debris with Dive Against Debris every day in February!
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favorite underwater areas?
Single-use plastics and fishing equipment are the most common marine debris items I have found during my Dive Against Debris surveys. Because the areas I visited are not regularly dived sites, mostly jetties, this means most of the debris is from fishing. The problem with this is that people aren't aware of the danger – like entanglement or suffocation – that these items pose to the life here. Even if these items doesn't damage the local area, they still eventually make their way out to the depths where they are eventually consumed (in micro plastics) by the fish, which we then go and eat.
What Project AWARE programs have you participated in? Tell us about your work.
I have predominantly worked on Dive Against Debris projects. While doing plenty of clean up dives in Airlie Beach, we found many large and small items including deck chairs and fishing rods. I then went overseas travelling and while in Colombia, was educating local people on the impact of their rubbish on the oceans and their fishing habits. Once back in Adelaide, Australia, I dove every day in February to clean up the jetties and beaches to show people how much is really down there, even though we can’t see it from the surface.
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
My highlight would be going on the ABC radio to chat about the campaign and tell people how my Dive Against Debris efforts were going and how they can get involved in ocean conservation. I've received a lot of contact from people who are surprised by what I've found and then have been motivated to get out and do their own clean ups. It’s great to see that people really care about it and want to help in whatever way they can.
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
It's not just divers who can make a difference; everyone can help and make positive changes to impact the marine environment. Even 5 mins a day of picking up rubbish can create a noticeable change in your local area.