While all eyes are on sharks this week, PADI® is harnessing the public’s fascination with sharks to dispel myths and raise awareness about the vital role these apex predators play in the ocean. As part of the organization’s Four Pillars of Change initiative, the Marine Animal Protection Pillar embraces PADI’s commitment to shark and ray protection by engaging PADI Dive Centers, Resorts, professional members and divers to educate the public and increase support for Project AWARE® and other conservation partners.
Project AWARE, PADI’s long-term partner, advocates for policies that bolster and safeguard protections for vulnerable sharks and rays. With the dive community’s help, Project AWARE and partnering organizations have secured historic protections for shark and ray species over the past 10 years. PADI Members can continue to be a significant force in protecting sharks by further educating student divers about threatened shark and rays species, and by incorporating the AWARE Shark Conservation Specialty into course offerings.
In May 2017, Project AWARE released Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism: A Guide to Best Practice, which offers practical, best-practice guidance that can be used by tourism operators, nongovernmental organizations and local communities to create and maintain tourism operations that are well managed, help conserve sharks and rays, and benefit the community. When divers have the opportunity to see sharks or rays, they become ambassadors for these awe-inspiring creatures.
The PADI organization is also leveraging expertise from divers in the PADI AmbassaDiverTM community, such as shark conservationist and PADI Divemaster Jillian Morris, to increase shark and ray focused content across PADI communication channels and social networks. This week, PADI will release the latest video in its #mypadi series of inspirational stories. The video showcases the journey of Mike Coots, a young surfer who, after losing his leg in a shark bite incident, is dedicated to challenging people’s unhealthy perceptions of sharks, and he finds understanding and peace through diving. “The irony is undeniable – you would think losing a limb to a tiger shark that I would be scared of them, but it’s completely the opposite,” says Coots. “I have an incredible respect for sharks and I want to share my story with others so that they are inspired to not only protect them but to get in the water and experience what it’s like to see them face to face in their element because it will forever transform the way they feel about sharks.”
PADI Members have the unique ability to be a force for good that impacts divers, the dive industry and the oceans. Join in the #padi4change conversation, engage in responsible environmental practices and share key insights to drive awareness to the importance of marine animal protection. PADI Members and divers are driving change, not just during Discover Channel’s Shark Week but every day and can share their stories to inspire others to do the same. If you have a story you want to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit projectaware.org to support Project AWARE’s shark and ray conservation year round.