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Proposals unveiled to cut red tape for divers retrieving marine litter

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NAUI

As part of the government’s ongoing drive to clean up our seas, new proposals launched on Friday will cut red tape and make it easier for divers to remove litter from the seabed.

  • New proposals to make it easier for divers to remove marine litter
  • Consultation launched to streamline marine licensing system for boat users
  • Plans to help tackle abandoned ‘ghost gear’ and clean up seas

Until now, a marine licence may be required for divers who retrieve litter or abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear – known as ‘ghost gear’ – during the course of a dive. Now, in a consultation launched on Friday 2nd November by Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, divers will be exempt from the current requirement to have a marine licence – streamlining the existing regime and helping to tackle the 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear lost in our oceans each year. The consultation also brings clarity to boat users who do not require a licence to collect litter or ghost gear from the ocean’s surface.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Diving communities play an important role in protecting our marine environment and tackling the litter and ghost gear that blights our oceans. We want to make it easier for divers and other sea users to play their part, which is why we are looking at how we can cut red tape while still maintaining the highest protections for our precious marine life”.

The proposals to tackle marine litter form part of a wider consultation on changes to the marine licensing system, designed to simplify the current rules and reduce unnecessary burdens on divers. Existing marine licencing rules were introduced in 2011 to ensure activities such as construction and dredging are only permitted when they have taken into account environmental impact.

However, in recognition of the environmental benefits that marine litter retrieval can bring, the licensing rules have now been reviewed to allow divers to use equipment such as a lifting bag, a vessel or an aircraft to remove marine litter, while ensuring they still uphold the highest protections for habitats, protected species and items of archaeological or historical interest.

Chair of the British Sub-Aqua Club Alex Warzynski said “As divers we see first-hand the damage to the marine environment done by abandoned and lost fishing gear along with other marine litter, and anything that Defra can do to make it easy for divers to clean up without fear of doing the wrong thing will help”.

The new proposals will also allow harbour authorities to remove all marine litter as previously they have only been able to remove objects that present an immediate risk of obstruction or danger to navigation. The UK Government joined the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) in 2017, a consortium founded by World Animal Protection to collectively address the fishing litter issue. Today’s announcement is the latest step in the government’s ongoing plan to tackle marine litter in our oceans. This includes a world-leading ban on microbeads which harm marine life, and plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and introduce a deposit return scheme to drive up the recycling of drinks bottles and cans, subject to consultation.

The government also launched the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) earlier this year which has seen member states join together in the fight against plastic pollution. As one part of CCOA, the Commonwealth Litter programme will support six countries across the Commonwealth to develop their own national litter action plans focusing on plastics entering the oceans.

The consultation opened on 2 November and runs for 6 weeks.

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Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap

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The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dive Training Blogs

Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)

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It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!

James


Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady

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Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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