Wet and windy conditions did not stop the Dive Centre Manly dive club turning out in force recently to hear my presentation on shark conservation. Divers love to hear about sharks as much as they love to see sharks while diving. It is just a shame that the shark story is so sad.
But the reaction of divers when they learn about the issues is heart warming. Every time I tell the shark story - every time any PADI instructor tells the shark story - we are creating new shark conservation advocates. Who knew when they became a PADI instructor that they could help drive a global movement of divers who take action to protect sharks? It's a great job!
Dive Centre Manly divers are already aware of some of the issues as they share many of their dives with one of the most misunderstood sharks in the ocean. The grey nurse shark looks serious enough, with its powerful torpedo-shaped body and mouth full of gnashing teeth. But in reality they are the original gentle giants and are highly unlikely to harass a diver.
But these graceful animals have been hunted to a point that they are critically endangered in NSW, Australia. It seems we pose a greater threat to sharks than they pose to us. Knowing how close we are to losing our grey nurse sharks, and having been privileged to swim alongside them, most divers in NSW are very aware that sharks need our help to survive in today's greatly modified ocean.
So this is where PADI Instructors - and anyone else who likes to teach - can help give sharks a fighting chance. Teach the new AWARE Shark Conservation program and turn your students into shark defender champions!
In the New Year I'm looking forward to certifying Dive Centre Manly divers as AWARE Shark Conservation Divers and in so doing having another opportunity to swim with the grey nurse sharks.
David Roe, Marine Conservation Officer, Project AWARE