Scuba instructor Virginie (Giny) Pinto, like so many other dive leaders, loves introducing her students to the thrill of scuba. Nothing makes her happier than sharing the awe and wonder of the undersea experience with new divers – seeing their joy upon taking a first underwater breath, leading them in exploring a healthy and colorful reef or a chance encounter with marine life. Throughout her teaching experience, she’s been consistently conscious of the need to protect ocean environments in order to preserve the scuba experience, but when asked what drove her to become a conservation advocate, she recounts one particular, life-changing scuba diving experience:
Giny was guiding a group of four dive students on a routine scuba excursion when she was struck with excitement – she spotted a gigantic school of fish ahead of her in the distance! Signalling to her group to follow, they began swimming in the direction of the fish with eager anticipation to identify which species lie ahead. As they inched closer, their hearts sank. The species they had spotted wasn’t a school of fish at all – instead, they had encountered a swirling cluster of plastic bags.
Giny was struck with despair: if she and her dive guests could misidentify the “school” of plastic bags as fish, what other marine animals might accidentally do the same, mistaking the marine debris for food or prey? Her fear, unfortunately, rings true: countless ocean animals are affected by marine debris every year. In fact, all seven species of sea turtle, over half of marine mammal species and almost two thirds of seabird species have either ingested or become entangled in marine debris.
From that moment on, Giny determined to take action against marine debris as aggressively as she could. At Oceans 5 Dive Center in the Gili Islands, Indonesia, Giny has organized consistent weekly beach clean ups and Dive Against Debris surveys for the past 4 years. She has personally been involved in over 50 Dive Against Debris surveys so far, and plans to engage in many more in the coming year. She explains that her favorite aspect of Dive Agianst Debris is not only the direct impact of removing debris underwater, but the added element of submitting survey results to Project AWARE to help make a positive, big-picture impact on the global marine debris issue:
“It’s a great incentive to know that Dive Against Debris data is not only collected, but also recorded to be used to advocate for long-term, lasting change,” says Giny.
Diving around Indonesia’s Gili Islands for the past ten years, Giny has witnessed the devastating impacts of pollution on the ocean environment. But in that time, she’s also had the opportunity to see how small efforts against marine debris, through Dive Against Debris and related conservation actions, can add up to big change. She believes in the power of underwater marine debris collection and data reporting to make a positive, lasting impact on the environment – preserving the scuba experience for future generations of divers.
Project AWARE thanks Giny for her commitment to Dive Against Debris over the past few years and for her pledge to continue her efforts in 2016 and beyond. Join Giny and Dive Against Debris today.
Dene Roth grew up in a small desert community outside Pheonix, Arizona in the United States. But that didn’t matter. From a young age, she was called to the ocean. Her youth was spent daydreaming about turquoise coastlines, a swim in the ocean or chance to dive below the waves. She would wonder about underwater environments and creatures, curious about their activities, interactions and habitats. In high school this curiosity led Dene to become, in her words, obsessed with sharks. Mesmerised, she’d spend countless hours researching them, learning more about their personalities, social lives, role in ocean ecosystems and, unfortunately, the many threats affecting their rapid decline. She slowly learned more about other ocean issues, like overfishing, marine debris, and more… Before she knew it, she had become an ocean activist – educating friends, family and classmates on the most pressing issues faced by the ocean today.
When Dene attended college, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program at the University of Queensland in Australia. After all, the ocean was calling – it had been for years. Dene followed her passion and became a certified scuba diver, allowing her the chance to see beautiful reefs and extraordinary marine life first-hand in one of the world’s most incredible dive locations. Upon graduating, Dene travelled to Key Largo, Florida, US to do more diving, just for fun. But in the blink of an eye, she was back just two weeks later to begin her scuba dive instructor training!
Since then, Dene has joined the Rainbow Reef Dive Center team in Florida, US as a dive instructor. Here, she leads guests on dive expeditions and assists with course development and dive center operations. Drawing on her passion for ocean conservation and desire to make a positive impact on the marine life that she so loves, Dene encouraged her team to start doing community organizing for ocean protection. Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris was the perfect fit.
Dene helped lead Rainbow Reef Dive Center in their first Dive Against Debris survey in late 2015. Fifteen volunteer divers surveyed two local dive sites, removing more than 120 pounds of debris from the sea floor. With such impressive results, the team decided to extend Dive Against Debris efforts to once a month. While the dive center has always been debris-conscious (at least 4-8 dive boats go out per day and pick up trash found while out on dives to bring back for proper recycling or disposal), Dive Against Debris surveys and data reporting have helped them to make a more positive and impactful contribution to ocean protection.
Dene explains, “Our students have a blast during Dive Against Debris. My favorite part is seeing people that have never met each other connecting and working together to bring up as much trash as possible.”
Dene’s and Rainbow Reef’s Dive Against Debris efforts are improving the health of local dive sites, bringing the community together, and educating the public on the marine debris issue. Perhaps more important, though, is the fact that Dene and Rainbow Reef have committed to consistent, monthly clean-ups that will provide repeated data over time. Consistent, repeated data helps Project AWARE better locate and understand sources of marine debris, how it enters ocean environments, and travels undersea – the more we understand what is happening underwater, the better we can stop marine debris at the source and prevent it from harming undersea environments in the future.
Project AWARE thanks Dene for following her passion for ocean protection and committing to sustained, monthly Dive Against Debris surveys in 2016.
Want to join Dene in the fight against debris? Commit to consistent Dive Against Debris surveys in 2016 and beyond!
We all have that first diving experience that transforms us. Whether it’s the surreal sensation of blowing your first bubbles underwater, travelling to an exotic locale or a unique encounter with marine life, it’s that initial moment – that connection to nature – that draws us into the world of scuba.
For Kevin Cook and his wife Vanessa, it started with a vacation. On holiday in Knysna on the Western Cape of South Africa, they strolled into a local tourist office to learn more about adventure activities they could partake in, and a diving opportunity quickly caught their eye. They enrolled in an open water scuba course in the Knysna lagoon area, and while descending the dive line on their way down to view an old wreck, they encountered the rare and magnificent Knysna seahorse hanging on the line:
Kevin states, “Words cannot explain the wonder of that first experience. We have been hooked ever since!”
A few years (and dive holidays) later, the couple’s passion for diving had grown and they invested money into a dive business, launching both of them on their journey to becoming scuba instructors. Initially a weekend hobby, their organization has now grown into a full-time dive business. As their business developed, Kevin and Vanessa always kept their first dive experience, where they encountered the Knysna seahorse, in the back of their minds. Constantly reminded and motivated by the magic of that encounter, they both understood the need to protect marine life and the environments they depend on.
Kevin and Vanessa knew they wanted to incorporate ocean conservation into their business, but where to start? Though they initially found the task overwhelming and intimidating, an introduction to Project AWARE’s programs showed them the power of small ocean conservation actions across the world contributing to improved global conditions. They began implementing Dive Against Debris™ into all open water training curriculum at their dive center, Scuba.co.za, and including Project AWARE programming as an integral part of all their dive center’s activities. In the past year alone, Scuba.co.za has conducted over 15 Dive Against Debris surveys! These activities, and all other Project AWARE programs, allow Kevin and Vanessa to openly speak about ocean conservation issues with all of their clients.
Kevin explains, “We let our clients know that they can make a difference by simply taking part in our activities… We’ve found that people long for a connection with nature and diving is truly the only experience where you feel as if you are one with the environment itself.” It’s this understanding, he says, that compels one to take action for ocean conservation.
Through Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris program, Kevin and Vanessa feel empowered to show their guests that they can truly make a difference for underwater environments.
Join Kevin and Vanessa and Dive Against Debris today!