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Marine Life & Conservation

World’s largest dive community joins forces to protect the Great Barrier Reef



PADI is teaming up with Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef on a first-of-its-kind citizen science project to help protect the earth’s largest reef system. The Great Reef Census provides opportunity for divers everywhere to impact the long-term health of one of the most iconic dive destinations on the planet through online image analysis.

“As the impacts of climate change and other threats accelerate around the world, there is an urgent need to scale-up conservation efforts globally, which requires everyone to take part,” says Andy Ridley, CEO of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. “The  global dive community is in a unique position to support these efforts with the skills, passion and knowledge needed to support marine conservation efforts.”

From October to December 2020, divers, dive boats, marine tourism operators and others in the reef community were mobilised to create a makeshift research flotilla. Their mission: to capture large-scale reconnaissance data and images from across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Dive crew, scientists, tourists and conservation groups volunteered hundreds of hours and surveyed more than 160 reefs from the tip of Cape York to the remote southern Swains. Over 13,000 images were captured and uploaded to the Great Reef Census platform to be analysed.

“As PADI scuba divers and professionals, we are all ambassadors for our oceans,” said Michelle Barry, a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer based on the Great Barrier Reef. “The Great Reef Census is a ground-breaking idea for ocean conservation that is inclusive of anyone with access to the internet. This allows people all around the world to visit the Reef virtually and to be part of an important project to protect it.”

Diver Michelle Barry undertakes Great Reef Census
(Credit: Gabriel Guzman – Underwater images)

PADI and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef are calling upon divers worldwide, and all who care about the future of the ocean, to help turn these images into meaningful data, helping scientists and managers better understand the health of the reef system. Each image can be analysed by anyone, anywhere, with internet access and a few minutes to spare.

“This is the future of conservation on the Great Barrier Reef. This is where anyone can show that they care,” says Russell Hosp, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Environmental Manager and Master Reef Guide at Passions of Paradise, a PADI dive operator in Cairns, Australia. “If people are really serious about saving the Great Barrier Reef, this is their chance to go to, stick their hand up and say, ‘Yes, I want to be part of the solution.’”

The Great Reef Census is the first to test the effectiveness of mass-scale engagement in a significant underwater research project. If proven successful, the model can be rolled out across the world, providing real-time status updates for the planet’s treasured reefs. And, ultimately, serving as an influential tool to establish greater legal protections for coral reefs worldwide.

“Divers have long understood the value of citizen science and their unique ability to witness and report changes to underwater environments,” says Kristin Valette-Wirth, Chief Brand and Membership Officer for PADI Worldwide. Programs like Project AWARE’s Dive Against Debris continue to effectively provide data to influence policy changes for increased ocean protections.

“Many of us may not be able to travel to or dive the reef right now but, regardless of circumstance, we can contribute to its future – and ultimately the future of other reef systems around the world,” continues Valette-Wirth.

From climate change to marine pollution and deforestation, the pressures on global ecosystems are accelerating rapidly. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced three mass coral bleaching events in the last five years, meaning traditional management and monitoring resources are becoming increasingly stretched. 

Citizens CEO Andy Ridley at Moore Reef (credit Phil Warring)

“One of the greatest challenges to the Great Barrier Reef is that much of the world believes it’s already gone. But the Reef is massive, the same size as Germany, so the reality is it’s a patchwork system of incredibly healthy, degraded and recovering reefs,” said Ridley.

Only five to 10 percent of the Great Barrier Reef is regularly surveyed, the Great Reef Census is designed to help fill critical gaps in our knowledge of how individual reefs are coping with stresses and has already returned valuable data.

All are encouraged to get involved in the survey at To learn more about issues impacting ocean health and ways to be part of the solution, join the community of PADI Torchbearers uniting to save the ocean at


Marine Life & Conservation

Meet Parpal Dumplin – Norfolk’s very own purple sea sponge named by local child



Ten years ago, in 2011, a new sponge species was identified in the North Norfolk chalk beds by Seasearch volunteer divers. In January 2021, the Marine Conservation Society’s Agents of Change project invited children in the Norfolk area to name the purple sponge.

Following lockdown, the judges thought that this would be an ideal time for school children to bond, while using their creativity – with no constraints. From home schooling children to entire classes, the panel of expert judges received a fantastic response with suggestions including Norfolk Purplish Plum and Purple Stone Sticker. All entries were carefully considered by a panel of experts, looking at the creativity, suitability and usability of each name.

It was unanimously agreed that the sponge should be named Parpal Dumplin. The winning name was suggested by nine-year-old Sylvie from Langham Village School, “because the sponge is purple and it looks like a dumpling”. The panel particularly liked that the spelling gives the sponge a strong connection to Norfolk.

The panel of experts deciding on the name included: Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser at Norfolk Coast Partnership, Annabel Hill, Senior Education Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, Nick Acheson, President at Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society and Claire Goodwin, Research Scientist at Huntsman Marine Science Centre and internationally renowned sponge specialist. At the meeting, the panel was supported by Seasearch East Coordinator, Dawn Watson, who recognised this sponge as special over a decade ago.

Claire Goodwin, internationally renowned sponge specialist, says: “Dawn and Rob invited me to join a Seasearch survey of the east coast, including the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds. Dawn introduced me to a purple sponge she had noticed on the chalk reefs. We took samples, and believe it to be a species new to science, in a sub-genus of sponges known as Hymedesmia (Stylopus).”

We need to look at specimens deposited in museums to understand how many different Hymedesmia (Stylopus) species exist in the UK and how they differ from this new species. The Agents of Change naming project has given the sponge a common name that we can use until it has a scientific one.  I loved seeing all the creative suggestions.

Sponges help to keep seawater clean by filter feeding, consuming tiny particles of food that float by. There are over 11,000 different species globally and our purple one is ‘encrusting’, meaning it adopts the shape of whatever it covers. It lives in Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds Marine Conservation Zone, a precious area of local seabed that needs to be taken care of.

Jenny Lumb, Teacher at The Coastal Federation, said: “Naming the purple sponge has been a fun way for children to find out about the fascinating life hidden beneath the waves. It’s amazing to be given the chance to name a species that scientists and divers will use for years to come! The children are so fortunate to have the MCZ on their doorstep. They had a great time on the beach discovering some of the life there, collecting litter and finding out about this special coastal area. I am sure the children will continue to enjoy and care for the coastal environment into the future.”

Catherine Leigh, Education Adviser from the Norfolk Coast Partnership said: “It was a pleasure to help decide on the sponge’s name from so many fantastic suggestions submitted and I hope it will inspire people to find out more about all the incredible inhabitants of this Marine Conservation Zone on our Norfolk coastline.”

Hilary Cox, Agents of Change Norfolk Coordinator, said: “Parpal Dumplin is a great choice by the decision panel of specialists:  a local Norfolk name for this newly found species in North Norfolk’s Marine Conservation Zone.”

Annabel Hill, Senior Education and Engagement Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “Wonderful to be involved in the process of naming a new species of sponge, found in Norfolk from a range of fantastic creative names suggested by local school children”.

You can find out more about the purple sponge, and the search for its name, by watching this animation: The seabed is a fun place to be!

For more information on the work of the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Sharks, Save the Planet (Watch Video)



In 2020 Oyster Diving helped to train Toby Monteiro-Hourigan to become one of the youngest (12 years old) Master Scuba Divers ever. You can read his story here.

Toby has just completed this amazing ‘David Attenborough’ project video for his school on shark conservation. Please watch and share as it really is an eye opener in why we need to protect these incredible creatures.

Thanks to Toby and for letting us share this video.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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