We know marine debris is preventable. Together, we can stop it by taking local action and supporting policy change. I did exactly that by Diving Against Debris for the first time since becoming the Executive Director of Project AWARE during a visit to the beautiful island of Koh Tao. My visit followed AWARE’s successful campaign efforts for vulnerable sharks and rays at CITES in March 2013 and it was exciting to share recent victory with our supporters. On Koh Tao, I met with the people behind the 100% AWARE dive centers - Ban’s Diving Resort, Coral Grand Resort, Crystal Dive Resort, Sunshine Divers - to thank them for their critical support. I also spent time with Save Koh Tao, one of AWARE’s Ocean Action Project recipients in 2012.
Giovanni Cacchione, Coral Grand Resort Lead Instructor and newly minted PADI Course Director, led the Dive Against Debris. About 25 PADI Professionals and dive students dove off Sairee Beach with Project AWARE Dive Against Debris bags in hand. It did not take long to find marine debris. After a 50 minute dive we came back to shore with several large bags full of trash, a plastic beach umbrella and paint can in tow. Next, the entire team dove into the pile to separate, record and report online the debris we’ve found. Among our finds were bottles, plastic bags, intact fluorescent light bulbs, a large degrading plastic beach umbrella, a rusting paint can, nylon fishing line, batteries and even a bra!
Dive Against Debris is the only global, underwater, volunteer debris program that combines cleanup with a survey. Your efforts to remove and report debris you’ve found matter. To support the necessary policy change to prevent debris, we need information that gives the underwater perspective to the problem. Scuba divers are uniquely positioned to take action against debris – we are the first to see the devastating effects of debris underwater, we have the skills needed to cleanup underwater, and we have the platform – the Dive Against Debris database- to report it.
Special thanks go to Coral Grand Resort, a 100% AWARE dive center for hosting me on Koh Tao. Without their generosity, my visit would not have been possible. And to Vijit, Jonas, and Giovanni of Coral Grand Resort for giving me the opportunity to be on the front lines of marine debris by taking part in a Dive Against Debris.
Meeting the AWARE’s grassroots base and being able to thank them personally for all that they do for marine conservation was amazing. I extend the same thank you to all of you! We couldn’t deliver world-class marine conservation programs and campaigns without your support.