In this weeks Community Spotlight, we chat with the Temple Adventures team about marine debris, trawling, and ghost-nets. Together the team in India tackles the problem fins on and one dive at a time.
Tell us about your passion for ocean conservation.
At Temple, we consider ourselves as not just scuba divers, but ocean enthusiasts and environmental activists as well. As divers, the ocean is our second home. Just as we’d like to keep our homes clean, we feel the need to keep our ocean clean and unpolluted as well. Diving enables us to witness the effects of marine debris, trawling and ghost nets first-hand. Seeing plastic on a dive is not only unsightly but dangerous too. Since we are regularly in the presence of beauty and destruction of the ocean side-by-side, we feel the need to do something about it.
Why and when did you get involved with Project AWARE?
As part of our Project AWARE initiatives, we conduct on-going reef-building activities and ocean cleanups. We started out with building our first reef, Temple, in 2013 and we have been continuing on this path since. We found these projects a useful way for us to channel our interest in marine conservation. Project AWARE is an effective organization to sensitize the diver community to the pressing need for conserving the ocean. We aim to train and certify divers who are sensitive to environmental issues affecting marine life and strive to make a change.
What are some issues that are affecting your local dive site or favorite underwater areas?
Since Pondicherry is a small yet populated town on the mainland, most of the waste from the city ends up dumped in the ocean. The large amount of trash in Pondicherry waters, particularly plastic waste, is problematic. There could be organic pollution due to sewage effluents, but this remains yet to be investigated. Overfishing poses a major threat to the ocean globally, and the situation is no different in Pondicherry. Large trawlers capture huge amounts of fish, and thousands of fish are caught but discarded as commercially unimportant by-catch. Sea turtles also get entangled in trawlers and suffocate. The prevalence of ghost nests at reefs also poses a major threat to marine megafauna like turtles, as they often get entangled in ghost nets and are left to die.
In addition to the above, local people in Pondicherry are mostly unaware of the devastating effects their day-to-day lives have on the ocean. For instance, single-use plastics are still vastly used among the general public. The main underlying issue is large-scale consumption and waste production by the public.
What Project AWARE campaigns have you participated in?
We have conducted Dive Against Debris surveys in 2014. The heroes of our body of work are our artificial reefs - we have four now! Construction of our first artificial reef was done in 2013, and expanding these reefs has been a continuous process. Our artificial reefs have been attracting a ton of curious fish and more curious divers. Through the efforts of Project AWARE, we have been able to reach out to the dive community regarding the importance of marine conservation. We believe in leading by example, and hence we collect any marine debris seen on a dive and encourage visiting divers to do the same.
What has been the highlight of your Project AWARE experience?
It has been immensely satisfying to participate in ocean cleanup campaigns and reef-building activities; to actively contribute to conserving the reefs we love diving. We plan to branch out to more conservation work in the near future, and include more Project AWARE surveys in our dive routine.
What are your top 3 pieces of eco-advice?
- Be a responsible diver, never pick anything (but trash) from the ocean. Take only photographs and leave nothing but bubbles.
- Recycle! All your trash ends up in the ocean, choking marine life.
- Educate people more, not necessarily only divers. The ocean is something we all have a stake in and we all have a responsibility to protect it.
What is the most important thing you tell others about Project AWARE?
Project AWARE is a great way to create conservationists out of citizens, by inculcating a sense of responsibility towards the ocean among the dive community.
Check out Temple's You Tube channelto view their incredible marine life rescues.