Harnessing the unique underwater skill set of the scuba diving community, Adopt a Dive Site™ urges scuba diving leaders around the globe – to engage in ongoing, local protection and monitoring of our underwater playgrounds.
Since the initiative launched on Earth Day 2016, over 390 dive sites around the world have been ‘adopted’ by our committed supporters and volunteers. This program provides the necessary foundation for the future of our global citizen’s science footprint, one that we expect to grow in the years to come to win the fight against the onslaught of marine debris in the ocean.
This Earth Day, April 22, Jack Fishman, Project AWARE’s New Community Conservation Officer, shares his hands-on experience and thoughts on this unique initiative. He explains how local actions are leading the global effort to tackle the marine debris crisis.
If you love a place, then you have to protect it
by Jack Fishman, Project AWARE's Community Conservation Officer
Many individuals can relate to this creed, especially those who establish communities and build lives somewhere that they feel the happiest.
Many of us feel most at home in or around the ocean. Project AWARE's Adopt a Dive Site™ Program allows dive enthusiasts and ocean lovers, like me, to commit their passion to a place by backing it up with real data, media, and commitment to taking care of it. A tangible and necessary support system to reinforce the efforts one can make towards protecting that which they love.
To find a great example of a flourishing passion for ocean conservation look no further than the Florida Keys where I’ve worked many years as a Marine Conservation Coordinator. The Keys host the third largest barrier reef system in the world; home to tremendous diversity. For many divers, this is the first time they will experience a dive within in living reef ecosystem.
In the Keys, many Scuba diving centers strive to cater to the innate curiosity of each diver and encourage each of their guests to help protect Florida’s natural wonders. The Keys recent focus on Dive Against Debris® and the associated local community engagement was a natural outgrowth of the innate enthusiasm of local Divemasters and Instructors I’ve worked with - they live these reefs each and every day and feel a real drive to work to keep the reefs free of garbage and discarded junk. Now, with the Dive Against Debris® regular programs well established, Professional Divers are working hard to provide easy and engaging access to practical marine conservation for dive guests and the local public.
Dive Centers like Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo, have a large team of passionate staff. At RRDC, each member of staff does what they do because of a shared passion for the ocean and its inhabitants. This passion helps create the drive to develop new skills and to introduce new programs that complement each other. Since Adopt a Dive Site™ launched on Earth Day 2016, RRDC has “adopted” 23 sites from all areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Each site represents a personal passion or connection to an individual staff member. This allows for continued monitoring, smooth transitions, and consistency. These sites are monitored multiple times a month and we’re happy to see many sites being reported as debris free sites. We applaud that the RRDC team is trying to expand their exploration outside the boundaries for the Florida Keys marine sanctuary protections to monitor monthly or more frequently and ensure they stay on top of any debris they can find.
RRDC’s passion and consistency allowed programs in marine debris to be noticed by the local authorities and marine conservation organizations. In September 2017, the level of training and consistency, thanks to Project AWARE’s Adopt a Dive Site™ Program, has allowed dive leaders to be prepared and trained to respond to the critical marine debris issues they faced after the effects of Hurricane Irma that passed through this beautiful place that I used to call home before moving to California to join the Project AWARE Team.
Now, dive professionals, recreational divers, and Government officials monitoring the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are working hand in hand, recognizing the value of ground and community-level participation, and the impacts that can be made by passionate individuals who love the place they live in. This kind of success and tangible outcome is possible because of the Dive Against Debris® data submitted by Adopt a Dive Site participants™ over the course of a couple years and showing the community that divers can be a force for good.
Real change can happen if real people come together to support something that they love. When it comes to the ocean, Project AWARE gives you the tools needed to be a consistent positive presence in your community through diving. If you start with a little bit of passion, one small ripple at a time, then that can lead to big waves of change.
This Earth Day, April 22nd, we thank all our Adopt a Dive Site™ participants and invite you to join our global army of debris activists who take their Dive Against Debris actions to the next level!”