In this week’s Community Spotlight, Project AWARE catches up with Richard Reardon, a PADI Course Director in Phuket, Thailand.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
I have been diving since 1999 and a PADI instructor since 2002, and am currently a Platinum Course Director. The PADI lifestyle and the underwater world has enabled me to experience many different cultures and amazing things above and below the surface. I hope we can better protect the underwater environment so many others will be able to travel and dive the world in the future too.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
I have always tried to dive and teach according to the Project AWARE philosophy, especially in teaching good buoyancy habits and responsible diving. I have also always been fascinated and mesmerised by sharks, so in 2005 I wrote a Reef Shark Awareness Distinctive Specialty with a heavy slant on shark conservation and the Project AWARE ethos. In 2010, I first got directly involved in a Project AWARE campaign by collecting signatures for the ‘Stop Shark Finning’ petition whilst working in Pulau Weh, Indonesia.
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favourite underwater areas?
I am currently running Instructor Development Course (IDC) programs in Phuket, Thailand, which is a favorite holiday destination for tourists from all around the world. Unfortunately increased tourist traffic can translate into an abundance of marine debris – especially in high season, close to the main tourist beaches. During our IDCs, we dive quite close to one of the main tourist beaches in Phuket, so we are trying to do our bit to combat the problem.
What Project AWARE programs have you participated in? Tell us about your work.
I have tried to get involved with many Project AWARE initiatives over the years. I have conducted Dive Against Debris surveys, collected signatures for petitions to increase shark protection, and have taught both the AWARE Shark Conservation and Dive Against Debris Specialties to my IDC candidates.
At All 4 Diving we have recently engaged in the Adopt A Dive Site initiative too. We have adopted the dive site where we conduct our training dives during our IDC programmes, and plan to conduct Dive Against Debris Specialty Instructor training there every month, and will be submitting the data of the debris we remove from the ocean there.
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
Every time we leave behind a cleaner dive site is a highlight for me. Although it saddens me at first, finding and then freeing animals trapped in underwater debris is always a truly special moment. Whether it’s a fish snagged on a lost fishing hook, or a tiny crab tangled in a discarded net, it’s great to give these animals back their freedom.
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
Education is the first step in making a positive difference to the environment. Project AWARE has given us dive professionals the perfect platform from which to educate divers about the importance of protecting the ocean by incorporating Dive Against Debris as an option in PADI’s newly revised Advanced Open Water Course – it’s the perfect partnership! I try to encourage all my IDC students at All 4 Diving in Phuket to promote Dive Against Debris as an option every time they teach an Advanced Open Water course in the future. If every advanced course included a Dive Against Debris dive, I think we could start to see a big difference underwater.