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Marine Life & Conservation

Deptherapy Team mark IYOR 2018 with launch of new environmental project

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A team of UK Armed Forces veterans is launching a project to ‘give back’ to the marine environment that they credit with turning their lives around.

The 30 wounded in service veterans, all suffering from life changing physical and / or mental injuries, are Programme Members of scuba diving rehabilitation charity Deptherapy.

The aim of the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project is to raise awareness of the fragility of the world’s oceans and for each Deptherapy Programme Member to make their own practical contribution to environmental protection to help safeguard the future.

The project comes at a time when the world’s attention is increasingly focused on environmental sustainability, the scourge of plastic pollution and the health of the planet. 2018 has been designated the Third International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2018).

Deptherapy Ambassador and trainee Divemaster Ben Lee at Roots Red Sea, Egypt. Photo – Dmitry Knyazev.

Deptherapy Ambassador and former Royal Engineer Ben Lee, who lost both legs and sustained other injuries in an IED explosion in Afghanistan is leading the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project. Ben is currently training to be a Divemaster and recently won the Royal Foundation’s Endeavour Fund ‘Recognising Achievement’ Award.

On his motivation to lead the project, Ben Lee said:

“The Red Sea and Deptherapy changed my life forever. If I could, I would live underwater – the tranquility, the beauty, it just blows your mind. You feel at one with nature.

I want to help teach my son to dive. I want him to enjoy the oceans, but we are killing our seas; global warming, pollution, over fishing and plastic waste are destroying our reefs and our aquatic life.

These are our oceans, and as surely as we fought for our Country, we must now, as that same ‘Band of Brothers,’ fight to save our oceans.  We stood to arms in Afghan or Iraq, we now stand to arms, united in our determination to fight for the future of our oceans.”

Deptherapy’s next dive training programme, which takes place from 17th to 24th May at Roots Red Sea in Egypt, marks the start of the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project.

Tom Dallison, Head of Science at Coral Cay Conservation, will accompany the programme and lead six Deptherapy team members on a coral reef surveying and conservation course. The five day course will develop skills in underwater environmental survey techniques and species identification, in order to prepare the divers for an expedition to Truk Lagoon later this year.

Part of the Roots Red Sea programme and all of the Truk expedition are funded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2016 Libor Fund.

On the Truk expedition in August, the Deptherapy team will independently map the health of the marine life on the wreck of the former Naval Tanker, the Shinkoku Maru, and produce a detailed report of their findings.

Divers from Coral Cay Conservation undertaking a coral reef survey in the Philippines. Photo – Coral Cay Conservation.

Tom Dallison explained more about the project:

“Deptherapy does magnificent work, offering incredible opportunities to injured veterans. I am honoured to have this chance to facilitate their efforts whilst incorporating my own passion into their cause – the conservation of our ocean’s fauna and flora.

Working closely with a team during the Roots expedition, we will, collectively, develop a deep understanding of the marine life in the Red Sea, delving into the ecology and behaviour of marine organisms, whilst focusing on the current impacts faced by coral reefs and the methods used to monitor their health.

By building an affinity to the marine world, Deptherapy will boast six newly trained conservation-advocates for their Truk Lagoon expedition and future programmes.” 

During the Roots trip, all Programme Members will also take part in a ‘Dive Against Debris’ underwater and beach clean up. Several Members have also volunteered to give environmental presentations to the rest of the team.

Long time partner of the Deptherapy charity, PADI are fully supporting the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project. Two of PADI’s Pillars of Change focus on People & Community and Healing & Wellness, making Deptherapy the perfect charity for PADI to support.

Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager UK South & Ireland, explained:

“Deptherapy has demonstrated that by adapting teaching techniques, those with perceived limitations can overcome them and become scuba divers. The PADI Adaptive Techniques program has been designed using these same techniques.

PADI is proud to partner Deptherapy and is committed to helping to bring more troops through their programmes in the years ahead.”

PADI will also be supporting this project through its own Project AWARE® Foundation.

 PADI Regional Manager for Egypt, Ahmed Sayed said:

“When ocean health is combined with the health of those within Deptherapy’s program it is all the more powerful. Project AWARE is grateful for all the support Deptherapy gives. It is fantastic to see two charities working together for the good of so many and I am honoured that Egypt will host the first stage of this project.”

As well as PADI and Coral Cay Conservation, a division of the Lifesigns Group founded by Deptherapy Patron Alistair Cole, the ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ project has the support of many other key individuals and organisations within the scuba diving community.

Patrons of Deptherapy Paul Rose and Andy Torbet have both pledged their support for the project, whilst David Jones, Founder of environmental organisation Just One Ocean, has come onboard as a Technical Advisor.

On working with Deptherapy and this project, Andy Torbet said:

“In 2018 plastic pollution, especially that in our oceans, seas, rivers and lakes has become front page news. This is great for those of us working on these problems for years. As divers, we have seen the plastic detritus and damage it causes first-hand and often out of sight of those who do not venture beneath the surface of the ocean.

When asked to describe myself, I always say Diver and Ex-Soldier. Deptherapy touches on both these passions as it uses one to help the other. Diving, along with the hard work of the volunteers that run the charity, and those involved in the programmes, have proved miraculous in helping individuals with very serious physical and mental injuries. It is not hyperbole to say it has saved people’s lives.

As the Deptherapy programmes continue to help those with massive, life altering injuries or serious mental health issues, those within the problem are trying to give back to the environment that has helped them – our oceans. The majority of the Deptherapy veterans feel the underwater world saved them, now it’s time for some payback.”

Pledge your support and find out more about the work of Deptherapy & Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk.

Marine Life & Conservation

Leading UK-based shark conservation charity, the Shark Trust, is delighted to announce tour operator Diverse Travel as a Corporate Patron

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Corporate Patrons provide a valuable boost to the work of The Shark Trust. The Trust team works globally to safeguard the future of sharks, and their close cousins, the skates and rays, engaging with a global network of scientists, policymakers, conservation professionals, businesses and supporters to further shark conservation.

Specialist tour operator Diverse Travel has operated since 2014 and is committed to offering its guests high quality, sustainable scuba diving holidays worldwide. Working together with the Shark Trust will enable both organisations to widen engagement and encourage divers and snorkellers to actively get involved in shark conservation.

Sharks are truly at the heart of every diver and at Diverse Travel, we absolutely share that passion. There is nothing like seeing a shark in the wild – it’s a moment that stays with you forever!” says Holly Bredin, Sales & Marketing Manager, Diverse Travel.

We’re delighted to celebrate our 10th year of business by becoming a Corporate Patron of the Shark Trust. This is an exciting partnership for Diverse and our guests. We will be donating on behalf of every person who books a holiday with us to contribute towards their vital shark conservation initiatives around the world. We will also be working together with the Trust to inspire divers, snorkellers and other travellers to take an active role – at home and abroad – in citizen science projects and other activities.”

Paul Cox, CEO of The Shark Trust, said:

It’s an exciting partnership and we’re thrilled to be working with Diverse Travel to enable more divers and travellers to get involved with sharks and shark conservation. Sharks face considerable conservation challenges but, through collaboration and collective action, we can secure a brighter future for sharks and their ocean home. This new partnership takes us one more valuable step towards that goal.”

For more information about the Shark Trust visit their website here.

For more about Diverse Travel click here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Trust Asks Divers to help with Shark Sightings this Global Citizen Science Month

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Whether you are stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids or are off on the dive trip of your dreams. You can get involved in Citizen Science Month and help the Shark Trust by providing vital data about sharks are rays both close to home and further afield.

In addition to reporting the sharks and rays you see on your dives, the eggcases you find on the beach, the Shark Trust is looking for some specific data from divers who are asked to report any Oceanic Whitetip and Basking Sharks.

Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

The Shark Trust are looking specifically for Oceanic Whitetip Shark sightings over the coming weeks and months. So, if you are diving anywhere in the world, please report your sightings via the website or app.

Website: https://recording.sharktrust.org/

App: Search The Shark Trust in your app store

The Oceanic Whitetip. Known for their incredibly long dorsal and pectoral fins, this species was once the most abundant oceanic-pelagic species of shark on the planet.

Large and stocky, they are grey or brown above, and white below and famous for their huge rounded first dorsal fin and paddle-like pectoral fins. The fins also highly prized within the shark fin trade. Whilst they are mostly solitary, Oceanic Whitetips do occasionally hunt in groups.

An inquisitive species, they were easy prey for fisheries. Combined with their low reproductive rate, they were inevitably at high risk of population depletion. And declines of up to 99% have been reported in certain sea areas. They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist (2019).

Conservation efforts to discourage further declines include listing on CITES Appendix II and CMS Appendix I. They’re also the only species prohibited from take by all the Tuna RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Organisations). However, these measures do not mean that Oceanic Whitetips are not still caught – whether targeted or as bycatch – in some parts of the world. With populations declining at such a high rate, effective implementation of management measures is essential to ensure that the species can recover.

If you are lucky enough to get an image of an Oceanic Whitetip and you record your sighting on the Shark Trust app or website YOU CAN WIN! All images submitted with sightings, that also give consent to use in conservation messaging, will be in with a chance to win an Oceanic Whitetip T-shirt and mug. The competition will run until the end of “Shark Month” in July – so keep those sightings (and images) coming in.

Basking Sharks

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) season is upon us, and the Shark Trust is asking everyone to keep an eye out for these majestic giants over the summer months. If you see any, you can record your sighting to the Basking Shark Sightings database.

Each year, these mighty fish return to British waters to feed on plankton. You may see one, (or a few if you’re really lucky) from around April-October. They can be seen feeding at the surface of the water, where they look like they’re basking in the sun. Thus, their name!

Sighting hotspots around the British Isles include southwest England, Isle of Man, north coast of Ireland, and western Scotland. The Sea of the Hebrides is the most prolific sightings area in Scotland, but they have been spotted all around the coast and have even ventured into some of the sea lochs. The Shark Trust has received thousands of sightings since the Basking Shark project began, but more data is needed to truly understand what is going on with population numbers and distribution. You can help by recording your sightings this summer.

Great Eggcase Hunt

The Shark Trust has an Easter Egg Hunt with a difference for you to try. Take part in the Great Eggcase Hunt and get involved with a big citizen science project that helps shark, ray and skate conservation. And it’s an enjoyable activity for all the family.

The Shark Trust also want snorkellers and divers to record their underwater eggcase findings. Underwater records help pinpoint exactly where sharks and skates are laying their eggs and can help link to beach records. Learning the depth and substrate that they lay on also helps better understand the species.

Find out more: https://www.sharktrust.org/great-eggcase-hunt

Whether you are diving, snorkelling or exploring on the beach you can take part in Citizen Science Month and get actively involved in shark and ray conservation. Find out more: www.sharktrust.org

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