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Carpe Diem: Dive with a Purpose 2018, with the 100 Island Challenge



Scubaverse Contributor Yo-Han Cha reports from his recent liveaboard trip in the Maldives…

It’s been stunning out here in the Maldives. In the first two days we saw mantas and a whale shark – not a bad start to a week on a liveaboard, in fact it was beyond anything I expected. It was a dream start to the trip and Mother Nature and the Carpe Diem staff have certainly delivered.

But this trip wasn’t just about us having fun and enjoying the underwater wildlife of the Maldives, Carpe Diem had us diving with a purpose and we had Brian Zgliczynski and Clinton Edwards from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego who were here as part of their 100 Island Challenge campaign.

What is the 100 Island Challenge?

To quote Scripps:

No two coral reefs are the same, and no two reefs will face the future in the same way. This variability, however, can teach us lessons about how to manage coral reefs for the best future possible.”

The 100 Island Challenge is a five year campaign where they’ll aim to survey 100 islands and to resurvey them every two years to plot any changes. 81 islands have been surveyed so far with some of them have already had their two-year resurvey. The 100 Island Challenge team is aiming to complete 95 by the end of 2018.

One of their main methods of data collection is using photogrammetry to survey the reef – other methods being benthic and fish biomass assessments – but on this trip, there was a focus on the photogrammetry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what it is, photogrammetry is where hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs are processed by computer software to produce a 3D model.

I had come across it before to survey wrecks but it’s not something I’d ever attempted before. This has proved to be an excellent tool for surveying coral reefs as they don’t move, and by surveying the same site over time, the Scripps team have been able to monitor, not just a single snapshot of coral population and distribution but the growth, death and regrowth of the exact same corals in a specific area of the reef.

Which brings us back to the Maldives, with Brian and Clinton here to firstly see if the Maldives was somewhere suitable for the 100 Island Challenge and to test their camera equipment. We, the non-scientist guests, were encouraged to take our cameras and with a brief instruction before the start of the dive, go survey a small coral for ourselves.

Brian and Clinton were using DSLRs and today they mounted two of them together (quite a sight!) in order to survey a section of the reef in a 5m x 5m grid. Nobody else on the trip had a DSLR to take underwater and none of were expected to do a grid survey, but four of us, with four different makes and models of camera, ranging from a simple compact to a mirrorless, went out, chose a coral and gave it a go, not really knowing what the end result would be.

Due to our different cameras, some of us had to approach it slightly differently. I shot in continuous mode and kept the trigger down whilst I swam steadily around my coral. After years of photography where I’ve been told to shoot into the blue for good negative space and to shoot up, the most difficult part of me was to go against my instincts and avoid having any blue in the shot and to shoot down! However, the award for having the most patience and diligence went to Daphne as she individually took over a hundred images of a coral with her compact.

The results for all four of us were in my opinion amazing and I’m not just saying so because one of them’s mine. Considering that due to time constraints Clint processed the images at a lower resolution than he would do normally (Scripps are going to process them at full resolution when they get back to San Diego) and that we were total novices to this, the results were a lot more detailed than I expected them to be, which is exciting in more than one way as it shows that this method of surveying is one that can be easily trained to others.

We’re now, sadly, just over halfway through our trip. The diving, the staff and the liveaboard have been excellent and it’s been exciting to learn how we, each in our small way, can make a difference.

For more information on the 100 Island Challenge click here.

For more information about Scripps Institution of Oceanography click here.

For more information about Carpe Diem click here.

Yo-Han Cha is a member of the Northern Underwater Photography Group and started taking underwater photos with a Canon Ixus 980 IS before upgrading to an Olympus OM-D EM-5 two years ago. He has a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry and works as a Network Engineer for a telecoms company, neither of which is relevant to his underwater photography. Well, the job pays for the kit and trips, so it’s kind of relevant! He learned to dive whilst backpacking in Australia as he thought it would be the best way to see the Great Barrier Reef, and when he got back, started diving in the UK as he wanted to dive with seals. He loves going diving and is usually at his happiest when either taking photographs of nudibranchs or of seals. He prefers scenic diving but concedes that wrecks make lovely artificial reefs.

Marine Life & Conservation

Silent Reef Keepers: The Fight to Save the Caribbean Reef Shark



Caribbean Reef Shark

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will ask for increased protection for the Caribbean reef shark during next month’s Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs) on Aruba.  Caribbean reef sharks play a critical role in maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem and building resilience within the oceans. This increased protection is critical for ensuring a sustainable future for this iconic species.

The Caribbean Sea is renowned for its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a dazzling array of marine life. Among the charismatic inhabitants of this underwater paradise is the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezii), a species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reef ecosystems. In the Dutch Caribbean, these apex predators face mounting threats, but there is hope on the horizon. At the upcoming Conference of Parties for the Cartagena Convention (COPs), the Kingdom of the Netherlands will seek increased protection for these magnificent creatures by listing this species on Annex III of the SPAW Protocol.  Annex III includes plant and animal species which require additional protection to ensure this species is able to adequately recover their populations in the Wider Caribbean Region.


Caribbean reef sharks thrive in warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean region, with a distribution range that stretches from Florida to Brazil. This species is one of the most encountered reef shark species throughout the whole Caribbean Sea.  Growing up to 3m (9.8ft) in length, this shark is one of the largest apex predators in the reef ecosystem and is at the top of the marine food web, having only a few natural predators. 

In addition to being of great economic value, as shark diving is a major draw for divers from around the world, this species is also critical for maintaining balance within the reef ecosystem. Their presence helps regulate the population of smaller prey species, which in turn, prevents overgrazing on seagrass beds and coral reefs and eliminates sick or weak fish from the population. This balance is essential for maintaining the health and diversity of the entire coral reef.


Despite their ecological and economic significance, Caribbean reef sharks in the Caribbean face numerous threats that have led to a population reduction estimated to be between 50–79% over the past 29 years. In the (Dutch) Caribbean this is mainly caused by:

Habitat Degradation: The degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds due to climate change, pollution, and coastal development has a direct impact on the availability of prey for these sharks. Loss of habitat reduces their ability to find food and shelter.

Overfishing: Overfishing poses one of the most immediate threats to Caribbean reef sharks. They are often caught incidentally in commercial fisheries, where fishermen are targeting other species, or intentionally, where they are sought after for their fins, used in shark fin soup.

A Call for Increased Protection

There are different organizations and individuals working to protect sharks and their habitats in the Dutch Caribbean. A significant milestone was the establishment of protected areas such as the Yarari Marine Mammal and Shark Sanctuary between Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius.  Another milestone was in 2019 when the Dutch government adopted an International Shark Strategy. The strategy sets out which protective and management actions for sharks and rays are to be taken by the government in all seas and oceans where the Netherlands has influence (including the Dutch Caribbean).  Additional efforts are still needed to create more marine protected areas, enhance enforcement, reduce pollution in the ocean, and promote sustainable fishing practices.  These species know no (political) boundaries and their protection requires broadscale conservation efforts within the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.


The Caribbean reef shark is a species of paramount importance to the (Dutch) Caribbean’s coral reefs. With the extra protection being requested during the next COPS meeting in Aruba, there is hope that this species will have a healthy future. By recognizing their ecological significance and the challenges they face, we can work together to ensure a brighter future for the Caribbean Reef Shark in the Dutch Caribbean and beyond.



The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports science communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.    


Photo + photo credit: Jim Abernethy-all rights reserved

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Dive Pirates Foundation nominated for DEMA’s Community Champion Award, asking for DEMA Members to vote now!



Dive Pirates Foundation is proud to announce it has been nominated for DEMA’s 2023 Diving Community Champions award. The Foundation is asking all DEMA members to support the crew and vote to recognize the great efforts achieved in 2023!

Specifically, DPF is being recognized for this year’s “Find Your Inner Treasure” effort, which brought the world of scuba diving to 6 adults living with disabilities. Through this effort, the recipients – 5 of whom are military veterans – were equipped fully and trained by their local dive shops before enjoying a week-long dive trip to Cayman Brac Beach Resort. While at the resort, DPF provided additional volunteer instructors and adaptive buddies for all participants to dive adaptively alongside industry professionals and returning adaptive divers alike. For many of the new divers, these dives were their first open water diving experiences. By the end of the week, all new divers had completed more than a dozen open water dives, with some also earning their open water diver certification.

However, Dive Pirates’ “Find Your Inner Treasure” effort also provides something much more than a scuba diving trip: freedom. The new divers frequently used this word to describe the feeling of scuba diving, with many expressing that they thought diving was unattainable for them with their disability. For them, this trip was much more than a vacation. It was a confidence boost and validation of their ability.

New participants also found themselves welcomed into the Dive Pirates family and the dive community at large. Throughout the trip, DPF provided its participants new and old with fun events at the resort in order to build camaraderie and to promote a welcoming, inclusive environment for the 6 new divers. With the new members eager to return for future dives, as well as 8 past recipients, one stowaway adaptive diver, and other divers making this their vacation volunteer effort resulting in 64 travelers,  2023 marked another successful year for the Dive Pirates Foundation.

Now, DPF needs you to vote so they can be recognized for their amazing work! Voting closes October 12, 2023, at 4:00 pm US Pacific Time. DEMA members can vote for DPF here.

The Dive Pirates Foundation a 501(c)3 organization, positively impacts the lives of its recipients; injured military, first responders, law enforcement and others with mobile disabilities, by welcoming them into adaptive scuba diving which fosters accomplishment, self-worth and community. The Foundation trains, equips and conducts dive trips year-round to calm, warm-water locations for the safety of those with spinal cord injuries, networking with facilities willing to empower all participants with compassion and adaptation for a positive experience diving, team building and networking.

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