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CCMI alumni learn to freedive from world record holder Tanya Streeter

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CCMI’s 25th anniversary celebrations included Tanya Streeter leading a freediving clinic for CCMI alumni, giving Festival of Seas keynote address

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI), the organisation enlisted the help of world record holding freediver and former Cayman resident Tanya Streeter. Invited to give the keynote speech at the annual Festival of Seas gala on 4 November 2023, Tanya eagerly agreed to also host a freediving clinic for young Caymanians who participated in education programmes at CCMI to give back to the Cayman community.

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Returning to the island where she was born and raised, Tanya led a half-day freediving clinic at Sunset House with the support of Sunset Divers. CCMI education programme alumni were invited to register, and 11 Caymanians, ages 16-26 representing a span of 10 years of taking part in the range of CCMI education programmes, attended the clinic. Some of the alumni participated in more than one CCMI programme over the years, and several are now employed in a related industry in the Cayman Islands, a testament to the importance of CCMI’s scholarship opportunities for Caymanian students.

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When asked what it meant to Tanya to host this freediving clinic in Grand Cayman, she said, “I cannot overstate what a huge personal impact it has on me to come back to have this opportunity to work with young Caymanians. They are associated with CCMI, so they know about the ocean and about how important ocean health is here for us. But to be able to connect with young people in a realm that I’m good at and is important to me, and to see them grow a little bit personally, is huge. It’s my absolute favourite thing to do!”

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Called ‘the world’s most perfect athlete’ in 2002 by Sports Illustrated, Tanya discovered her record-breaking gift for freediving in 1997, and in the following decade broke 10 world records, many of them previously held by men. To this day, she still holds the longest-standing world record in the sport, having dived on a single breath to a depth of 525ft/160m in the No Limits discipline off the coast of the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2002. If anyone is qualified to help others begin their journey into freediving, Tanya Streeter is at the top of the list.

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The clinic started with a briefing and a meditation session, led by Tanya, to get the mind and body ready to freedive. Participants practiced meditation exercises, breathing techniques to help open the diaphragm and work the lungs and muscles, and important stretches. Next, Tanya gave an in-water safety briefing, which emphasized buddy pairs, proper in-water breathing techniques, and not pushing oneself too hard. In total the group spent about 90 minutes in the water in selected buddy pairs practicing freediving while under the watchful eye of CCMI’s in water safety teams. Tanya spent several moments with each freediver individually, observing them, and offering underwater support and topside coaching. After everyone had one-on-one coaching time with Tanya, the group snorkeled to the famous Sunset House mermaid statue, practicing their new, finely tuned freediving skills to dive to the mermaid (a depth of about 45-50 ft).

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Before the clinic, participants had a wide range of skills and experiences in the water. Tanya provided one-on-one coaching, speaking to each person’s comfort level. One participant said it felt like it was only the two of them in the ocean. Tanya’s constructive corrections in the water helped participants realize instant success in their form and dives!

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The following night, Tanya gave the keynote address to the more than 350 attendees at CCMI’s Festival of Seas gala at the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa. A passionate voice for the preservation of the marine environment, Tanya announced she would serve as a CCMI ambassador, focusing her energy on engaging the youth and young people in efforts to protect the ocean. She left attendees with the realization that the connection we have with the ocean is meaningful, and it paves the way to create protections and policies that will sustain the marine environment for the future.

CCMI

While Tanya enjoys using her platform to communicate about the importance of marine conservation, she is very passionate about working with youth and introducing them to the ocean through freediving. “To see those barriers people are facing and to push through and grow even in a hour, and hour and a half. That’s huge. It’s absolutely my favourite thing to do.”

For more information about CCMI, please visit www.reefresearch.org.

About CCMI

CCMI is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1998 to protect the future of coral reefs, envisioning a world with vibrant oceans and healthy coral reef ecosystems. We seek to be the Caribbean’s premier marine research institute by delivering cutting edge research, transforming conservation strategy and developing education programmes of excellence – discovering and promoting real solutions to declining ocean health. Our plan is to invigorate key species and understand key ocean processes that drive reef resilience. We support early career scientists who are INNOVATING ways to improve coral reef health. We are TRANSFORMING conservation strategy and work to inspire the CHANGE that is needed to achieve our mission. CCMI are PIONEERS in the region working to reverse the declines of coral reefs.

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Smart Shark Diving: The Importance of Awareness Below the Surface

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By: Wael Bakr

Introduction to Shark Diving Awareness‍

In the realm of marine life, few creatures captivate our interest, and sometimes our fear, like the shark. This fascination often finds a home in the hearts of those who venture beneath the waves, particularly scuba divers who love shark diving. It’s here that shark awareness takes the spotlight. Shark awareness is not just about understanding these magnificent creatures; it’s about fostering respect, dispelling fear, and promoting conservation. As Jacques Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love.” And to love something, one must first understand it.

Shark awareness is not a mere fascination; it’s a responsibility that we owe to our oceans and their inhabitants. From the smallest reef shark to the colossal great white, each species plays a crucial role in the underwater ecosystem. Our understanding and appreciation of these creatures can help ensure their survival.

However, shark awareness isn’t just about protecting the sharks; it’s also about protecting ourselves. As scuba divers, we share the underwater world with these magnificent creatures. Understanding them allows us to dive safely and responsibly, enhancing our experiences beneath the waves.

Importance of Shark Awareness in Scuba Diving

The relevance of shark awareness in scuba diving cannot be overstated. Sharks, like all marine life, are an integral part of the underwater ecosystem. Their presence and behavior directly influence our experiences as divers. By understanding sharks, we can better appreciate their role in the ocean, anticipate their actions, and reduce potential risks.

Awareness is crucial for safety when shark diving. Despite their often-misunderstood reputation, sharks are generally not a threat to humans. However, like any wild animal, they can pose risks if provoked or threatened. By understanding shark behavior, we can identify signs of stress or aggression and adjust our actions accordingly. This not only protects us but also respects the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Moreover, shark awareness enriches our diving experiences. Observing sharks in their natural habitat is a thrilling experience. Understanding them allows us to appreciate this spectacle fully. It’s not just about seeing a shark; it’s about understanding its role in the ecosystem, its behavior, and its interaction with other marine life. This depth of knowledge adds a new dimension to our diving experiences.

Understanding Shark Behavior: The Basics

The first step in shark awareness is understanding shark behavior. Sharks are not the mindless predators they are often portrayed to be. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. Understanding these basics can significantly enhance our interactions with them.

Sharks communicate primarily through body language. By observing their movements, we can gain insights into their mood and intentions. For example, a relaxed shark swims with slow, fluid movements. In contrast, a stressed or agitated shark may exhibit rapid, jerky movements or other signs of discomfort such as gill flaring.

Sharks also use their bodies to express dominance or assertiveness. A dominant shark may swim with its pectoral fins pointed downwards, while a submissive shark may swim with its fins flattened against its body. Understanding these signals can help us interpret shark behavior accurately and respond appropriately.

How Shark Awareness Enhances Scuba Diving Experiences

Shark awareness significantly enhances our scuba diving experiences. It transforms encounters with sharks from mere sightings into meaningful interactions. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it’s the power to appreciate, respect, and safely interact with one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants.

A thorough understanding of behavior when shark diving allows us to interpret their actions and responses accurately. It enables us to recognize signs of stress or aggression and adjust our behavior accordingly. This not only ensures our safety but also promotes responsible interactions that respect the sharks and their natural behaviors.

Furthermore, shark awareness adds a new layer of depth to our diving experiences. It’s one thing to see a shark; it’s another to understand its behavior, its role in the ecosystem, and its interactions with other marine life. This depth of understanding enriches our experiences and fosters a deeper appreciation for our underwater world.

Misconceptions About Sharks: Busting the Myths

Unfortunately, sharks are often misunderstood, feared, and even demonized. These misconceptions can be detrimental, not only to our experiences as divers but also to shark conservation efforts. As part of shark awareness, it’s important to debunk these myths and present sharks in their true light.

First and foremost, sharks are not mindless killing machines. They are complex creatures with unique behaviors and communication methods. They are not interested in humans as prey and, in most cases, prefer to avoid us.

Secondly, not all sharks are dangerous. Out of over 500 species of sharks, only a handful are considered potentially harmful to humans. Most sharks are harmless, and even those that can pose a threat are unlikely to attack unless provoked.

Lastly, sharks are not invincible. They are vulnerable to a host of threats, most notably human activities such as overfishing and habitat destruction. They need our understanding and protection, not our fear and persecution.

Shark Behavior: What to Expect When Scuba Diving

When scuba diving, it’s important to know what to expect from sharks. Most encounters with sharks are peaceful and awe-inspiring. However, as with any wild animal, it’s essential to be prepared and understand their behavior.

Most sharks are shy and cautious creatures. They are likely to observe you from a distance, often circling around to get a better look. This is normal behavior and not a sign of aggression.

However, if a shark becomes agitated or feels threatened, it may exhibit signs of stress such as rapid, jerky movements or gill flaring. In such cases, it’s essential to remain calm, avoid sudden movements, and slowly retreat if possible.

Remember, every encounter with a shark is an opportunity to observe and learn. With understanding and respect, these encounters can be safe, enriching, and truly unforgettable experiences.

Practical Tips for Shark Awareness During Scuba Diving

Being aware of sharks during scuba diving is about more than just understanding their behavior. It’s about applying this knowledge in practical ways to ensure safe and respectful interactions. Here are a few tips for shark awareness during scuba diving.

Firstly, always observe sharks from a safe distance. Avoid approaching them directly or making sudden movements, as this can startle or threaten them.

Secondly, never attempt to touch or feed sharks. This can disrupt their natural behavior and potentially put you at risk.

Lastly, always respect the sharks and their environment. Avoid disturbing their habitat or interfering with their natural behaviors. Remember, we are visitors in their world.

Promoting Shark Conservation through Scuba Diving

Scuba diving offers a unique platform for promoting shark conservation. As divers, we have the privilege of witnessing the beauty and complexity of sharks firsthand. We can share these experiences with others, fostering understanding and appreciation for these magnificent creatures.

Moreover, we can actively contribute to shark conservation. Many diving operators offer opportunities to participate in shark research and conservation initiatives. By participating in these programs, we can help ensure the survival of sharks for future generations.

Lastly, we can advocate for sharks. By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we can help dispel misconceptions about sharks and promote their protection. Every voice counts in the fight for shark conservation.

Courses and Resources for Shark Awareness and Behavior

There are many resources available for those interested in shark awareness and behavior. Scuba Diving International as well as numerous conservation-based organizations offer courses and workshops on shark biology, behavior, and conservation. These courses provide in-depth knowledge and practical skills for interacting with sharks responsibly and safely. From courses like our Marine Ecosystems Awareness Specialty and our Advanced Adventure Certification provide you with the information you need to tackle this new challenge!

Additionally, there are many online resources available, including websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to shark awareness and conservation. These platforms offer a wealth of information and a community of like-minded individuals passionate about sharks.

I encourage anyone interested in sharks to explore these resources, to sign up for one of SDI’s courses call your local dive center or instructor or reach out to your regional representative/ World HQ to find where the class is being taught near you. Knowledge is the first step towards understanding, appreciation, and conservation.

Conclusion: The Role of Shark Awareness in Future Scuba Diving Experiences

As we look to the future, the role of shark awareness in scuba diving will only continue to grow. As our understanding of these magnificent creatures deepens, so too will our appreciation and respect for them. This knowledge will shape our interactions with sharks, enhancing our experiences and promoting responsible and respectful behavior.

Shark awareness is more than just an interest; it’s a responsibility. It’s a commitment to understanding, respecting, and protecting one of the ocean’s most fascinating inhabitants. And it’s a journey that I invite all divers to embark on.

As we dive into the blue, let’s dive with awareness. Let’s dive with respect. And let’s dive with a commitment to understand and protect our underwater world. For in the end, the ocean’s health is our health, and every creature within it, including the sharks, plays a crucial role in maintaining this delicate balance.

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Divers Have More Fun in the Philippines (Watch Video)

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Pretty much whatever kind of diving interests you have, the chances are there is something for you in the Philippines.

From the Japanese WW2 wrecks in Coron; the Thresher sharks in Malapascua; big schools of fish, sharks and huge walls in Tubbataha; World class macro diving in Anilao, Puerto Galera, Romblon and Dumaguete; Whalesharks in Southern Leyte, Oslob, Donsol and Bohol; Massive schools of sardines in Moalboal and Bohol and stunning hard and soft coral reefs right across the country.

Plus, the Filipinos are the friendliest people on the planet!

Divers have more fun in the Philippines!

Book your next Philippines Dive Adventure with Philippine Dive Holidays, the specialists when it comes to diving in the Philippines! Visit www.philippinediveholidays.com to find out more.

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