Several years ago, dive instructor Rich Hopkins witnessed something that has stuck with him to this day. While diving in Woahink Lake in Oregon, United States, he became startled by a large object that was strikingly out-of-place in the underwater environment: a large household recliner chair that had been dumped by a local community member. Every time he dived that site, the sight of the submerged recliner irritated him to no end. He had no idea how to get it out of the lake, or if he did, what to do with it. Over time, he noticed more and more trash in his beloved lake. He resolved to take action.
Recently, Rich was leading a small group of student Dive Master Candidates (DMCs) through a series of scuba training activities, and an idea sparked. As part of the students’ training, they were required to do an underwater dive site mapping project to document the lake landscape, underwater features, locations and any stationary objects. Rich saw the perfect opportunity to use his students’ dive mapping project for good – he tasked them with mapping Woahink Lake’s natural underwater features and any large marine debris items in the area. His students couldn’t be more thrilled to utilize their training assignment to create a positive impact for their local dive site.
Collaborating with his dive center staff and colleagues at Eugene Skin Divers Supply, Rich organized a community event and Dive Against Debris™ survey to tackle 16 of the most challenging marine debris items in his local lake – including the recliner chair! Thanks to the exceptional skills of Rich’s student DMCs and the accurate and elaborate underwater mapping provided, the group of volunteers was able to prepare necessary equipment and secure properly trained dive leaders to help prioritize removal of debris items with logistics, visibility and safety in mind. With the help of 24 divers and 7 onshore supporting volunteers, Rich and his DMCs removed 637 debris items totalling 3,195 pounds!
The results of Rich and his volunteer group’s effort are astounding. With a little help from the local community and some advance planning through his DMCs mapping project, he was able to tackle even the toughest marine debris.
Rich shares, “I encourage any scuba instructor to find ways to implement Project AWARE activities into their classes, because it can and will make a difference. Remember, even the smallest effort can have a big impact.”
To learn more about how you too can take action against ocean trash, check out Dive Against Debris.
Photo courtesy: Davis Harte
The challenges facing ocean animals and marine environments are staggering. From marine debris to overfishing, bycatch and finning – it can sometimes feel like the odds are stacked against us in the fight for ocean protection. But Project AWARE volunteers around the globe are taking action and standing up for conservation! Colorado scuba instructor, Tim Riley, is no different.
As a dive instructor and ocean lover, Tim had always been interested in marine conservation. Whether educating his dive students about the impacts of marine debris on sea life or donating to ocean protection through 100% AWARE partnership, Tim has always put conservation at the heart of his dive business. So, when Project AWARE began campaigning for increased trade controls for sharks and rays at CITES CoP17, he knew he wanted to do something big to raise awareness for their protection.
Recognizing the obstacles faced by thresher sharks, the silky shark and devil rays, Tim decided to push himself to his own extreme challenge: he’d walk the Camino de Santiago, an almost 500 mile (780 km) long European pilgrimage route, in support of sharks and rays through Finathon.
“I was going to push myself to some pretty extreme challenges during my hike, and saw the similarities in what so many marine species – like sharks and rays – face on a daily basis. If my fundraising could help support ocean protection, even a little bit, it’d be worth the risk,” Tim explains.
Tim began his journey on August 25, 2016 from St. Jean, France. Following the most popular trail of the Camino de Santiago, “The French Route,” he hiked for 33 days straight, battling long days, an unexpected extreme heat wave, and aching, tired muscles, eventually completing the route and reaching its end point in Santiago, Spain. Despite the physical difficulty of his Finathon challenge, Tim remained motivated by his goal of raising funds and much-needed awareness for sharks and rays. With many other travellers and tourists travelling portions of the Camino de Santiago as well, Tim forged new friendships and shared his story with others along the way.
Says Tim, “It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever done in my life… It was truly an adventure of a lifetime.”
Shortly after Tim completed his journey in Europe and returned home to Colorado, member parties at CITES CoP17 voted YES for Appendix II listings for 13 species of sharks and rays – securing much-need protections for vulnerable species… a welcome end to Tim’s incredible journey for ocean protection!
Want to help support Project AWARE’s work to protect sharks and rays like Tim? Host your own Finathon today.