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Marine Life & Conservation

Scuba Divers In Monterey Dive Against Debris

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Earlier this month, Kevin and Melissa Barry were diving near the Monterey breakwater when Melissa found a small, velvet-lined box with an elegant latch. Inside was a plastic bag.

“It was a dog’s ashes,” says Kevin, a San Jose-based scuba instructor.

He was surprised to encounter a pet’s remains, but he had come to expect the unexpected during local dives.

“Of all the places I’ve been, I like Monterey the most,” he says. “Every dive, you see something new.”

Gazing at the shimmering blue waters of Monterey Bay, it’s easy to forget what’s hidden here. But those who plunge beneath the ocean surface know that a box of ashes is only one bizarre example of the human footprint on the seafloor.

Barry’s parents co-own the San Jose dive shop Any Water Sports, and they have long been aware of the underwater pollution problem. As early as 1990, they were organizing “garbage dives” and offering prizes to local divers who collected the most (or the most unusual) trash.

Today, Barry follows his parents’ example by participating in Project AWARE’s ‘Dive Against Debris’ program.

Founded in 2011, ‘Dive Against Debris’ is responsible for the removal of over 400,000 pounds of trash from the world’s oceans.

“Trash in our oceans doesn’t do anything good, and none of it belongs there,” says Ania Budziak, Project AWARE’s associate director. “Scuba divers are equipped with some unique skills. They can breathe underwater and are the only people who can really remove trash.”

Barry leads local Dive Against Debris events annually. The dives tend to draw about 20-30 volunteers with one common goal: to gather as much underwater trash as they can. Afterward, they record when and where each piece was recovered. The data is entered into the Dive Against Debris website, where it falls into the hands of Budziak and her colleagues.

“There are cars, there are shopping carts, there are beds,” says Budziak, recalling some notable items. “I don’t think we really lose this stuff. A lot of it must have been dumped.”

Project AWARE has been gathering debris data for years, but until recently, organizers hadn’t found a good way to summarize and share the data with the locals who gather it. “We didn’t have any way of telling the story of trash comprehensively,” Budziak says.

Now, Project AWARE is compiling the data into the first-ever interactive map of underwater trash. The website, launched April 22, allows divers worldwide to see their uploaded data.

Budziak is optimistic this one-of-a-kind map will help convey where underwater litter is concentrated.

“This is not an effort to scientifically assess how much trash is underwater,” she says. “But it is an attempt to visualize what divers see underwater.”

James Watanabe, a biology lecturer at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, sees a bright side.

“The problem of trash in the water depends on the kind of trash,” explains Watanabe, who often leads students in underwater classwork. “Big things with hard surfaces get disguised pretty quickly. Everything here is so prolific in the way it grows. Some pieces of trash become habitats.”

Underwater litter tends to be especially problematic near Monterey Harbor and around Fisherman’s Wharf, he adds. But even there, conditions have been improving.

“It used to be that when we collected octopuses for class, we would dive at the marina and pick up as many beer bottles as we could. Almost every one would have an octopus [inside],” he says. “Now, though, there are fewer bottles.”

Watanabe warns that trash is only a small drop in an ocean of marine conservation issues.

“Trash is the easy stuff, and we need to talk about the hard stuff, the complex stuff,” he says. “But if [picking up trash] changes people’s perspectives on where we are in the biological world, it’s a good thing.”

Changing perspectives is what Dive Against Debris is all about. Budziak says her next step is to survey volunteers to assess whether the project has had any lasting influence on their views or lifestyles.

Barry thinks it probably has.

“It’s kind of a subconscious thing,” he says. “Now, whenever I see a piece of trash, I pick it up.”

Visit www.projectaware.org to join a Dive Against Debris event or check out the new map of underwater trash.

 

Source: www.montereycountyweekly.com

Marine Life & Conservation

Parineeti Chopra teams up with PADI to create Ocean Change

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PADI® is thrilled to announce an exceptional PADI AmbassaDiver™: Indian actress, singer and PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Parineeti Chopra.

“A PADI AmbassaDiver is someone who is passionate about using their force for good to encourage others to protect our blue planet,” says Kristin Valette Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer. “We could not have found a more respected and authentic partner as Ms. Chopra, a long time ocean lover, to advance our shared mission of saving the ocean. She is unmatched as a shining example of how to protect what you love – and inspire others to do the same.”

Chopra, who has always loved the ocean, experienced the magic beneath the surface in 2013 when she took her first breath underwater in Bali. As soon as she surfaced from that dive, she was hooked – and protecting the ocean became very personal for her, receiving her PADI Open Water Diver certification later that year in Palau. Since then, she has inspired others around the world, from her family and friends to fans in India– to try scuba diving so they can join her in seeking adventure and saving the ocean.

“The first time I came up to the surface after diving, I was crying because it was such a life-changing experience,” says Ms. Chopra. “It is now something I can’t live without. I make sure I do a diving trip every three months despite my work schedule because it is my form of meditation. And it is the place I am immensely passionate about protecting.”

“We are all equal underwater and all speak the same language. Over the years I have seen the changes that have taken place beneath the surface. During my time as a brand ambassador for Tourism Australia, I witnessed the bleaching and damage that has occurred to the Great Barrier Reef.  I was so sad to see this and am now committed to being a diver with a purpose. I have also seen first-hand how marine reserves, like the ones in Sipadan, Malaysia and Palau, prove how valuable marine protected areas are. As a PADI Diver, I want to make sure that our entire blue planet gets the protection it deserves.” continues Ms. Chopra.

With over 67 million social media followers and having recently starred in the Netflix movie The Girl on the Train, Chopra joins an elite group of celebrity influencers determined to take personal action and create real change for healthier oceans. Spending nearly all her free time diving around the world, Chopra shares her love for the ocean with her fans, as diving is an important part of her life that allows her to return to nature and reset. She will work with PADI to encourage others to experience the beautiful world underwater as PADI Divers and join her in helping to achieve balance between humanity and the ocean.

“PADI created the AmbassaDiver programmeme to support extraordinary divers who dedicate their lives to illuminating the path that leads from curiosity, exploration, and discovery to understanding, stewardship and action. Ms. Chopra is playing a very important role in ocean conservation, lighting the way for others to become divers themselves and mobilising communities worldwide to seek adventure and save the ocean with her,” continues Valette Wirth.

Ms. Chopra has big plans for 2022 – including becoming a real-life PADI Mermaid and taking part in citizen science projects during her dive trips around the world. Follow Chopra’s dive adventures, projects and hands-on conservation efforts with PADI on her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about Chopra and the rest of the PADI AmbassaDiver team visit www.padi.com/ambassadivers.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Ghost Fishing UK land the prize catch at the Fishing News Awards

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The charity Ghost Fishing UK was stunned to win the Sustainability Award.

The winners were selected by a panel of industry judges and the award recognises innovation and achievement in improving sustainability and environmental responsibility within the UK or Irish fishing industries in 2021.

Nominees must have demonstrated a unique and innovative response to an environmental sustainability issue within the UK or Irish industry, demonstrating that the project has gone above and beyond standard practice, and provided evidence of its impact. The judges look particularly for projects that have influenced a significant change in behaviour and/or that have inspired broader awareness and/or engagement.

Ghost Fishing UK originated in 2015, training voluntary scuba divers to survey and recover lost fishing gear, with the aim to either return it to the fishing industry or recycle it. The charity is run entirely by volunteers and has gone from strength to strength, only last year winning the Best Plastic Campaign at the Plastic Free Awards.

Now, the charity has also been recognised at seemingly the opposite end of the spectrum. This is a unique achievement as trustee Christine Grosart explains;

We have always held the belief that working with the fishing industry is far more productive than being against it, in terms of achieving our goals to reduce and remove lost fishing gear.

The positive response to our fisheries reporting system that we received from both the fishing industry and the marine environment sector, was evidence that working together delivers results.

The feedback we got from the awards evening and the two-day Scottish Skipper Expo where we had an exhibit the following day, was that the fishing industry despises lost fishing gear as much as we do and the fishers here are very rarely at fault. It is costly to them to lose gear and they will make every effort to get it back, but sometimes they can’t. That is where we come in, to try to help. Everyone wins, most of all the environment. You can’t ask for much more.”

Following the awards, Ghost Fishing UK held an exhibit at the Scottish Skipper expo at the new P&J Live exhibition centre in Aberdeen.

This gave us a fantastic opportunity to meet so many people in the fishing industry, all of whom were highly supportive of our work and wanted to help us in any way they could. This has opened so many opportunities for the charity and our wish list which has been on the slow burner for the last 7 years, was exceeded in just 3 days. We came away from the events exhausted, elated, humbled, grateful and most of all, excited.”

Trustee and Operations Officer, Fred Nunn, is in charge of the diving logistics such as arranging boats and organising the divers, who the charity trains in house, to give up their free time to volunteer.

He drove from Cornwall to attend the awards and the exhibition: “What a crazy and amazing few days up in Scotland! It was awesome to meet such a variety of different people throughout the industry, who are all looking at different ways of improving the sustainability and reduction of the environmental impact of the fishing industry.

It was exciting to have so many people from the fishing industry approaching us to find out more about what we do, but also what they could offer. Fishermen came to us with reports and offers of help, using their vessels and other exhibitors tried to find ways that their product or service could assist in our mission.”

  • Ghost Fishing UK uses hard boat charters from Cornwall to Scotland for the diving projects, paying it forward to the diving community.
  • The charity relies on reports of lost fishing gear from the diving and fishing community and to date has received well over 200 reports, culminating on over 150 survey and ghost gear recovery dives, amounting to over 1000 individual dives and diver hours by the volunteer team members.
  • You can find more information at ghostfishing.co.uk
  • If you are a fisher who knows of any lost fishing gear, you can report it to the charity here: ghostfishing.co.uk/fishermans-reporting
  • The charity is heading to Shetland for a week-long project in the summer of 2023. If you would like to support this project, please contact them at: info@ghostfishing.co.uk

Chair of Ghost Fishing UK and professional technical diving instructor Dr Richard Walker was immensely proud of the team’s achievements;

I’ve been a scuba diver since 1991 and have met thousands of divers in that time. I’d be hard pushed to think of one of them that wasn’t concerned about conservation of our marine environment. To be recognised by the fishing industry for our efforts in sustainability is a huge honour for us, and has encouraged our team to work even harder to find, survey and remove lost fishing gear from the seas. The fact that the fishing industry recognises our efforts, and appreciates our stance as a group that wants to work alongside them is one of the highlights of our charity’s history, and we look forward to building the relationship further.

To find out more about Ghost Fishing UK visit their website here.


All images: Ghost Fishing UK

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