A New Wave of Ocean Protection

Support Project AWARE®’s next wave of ocean protection with your PADI® Member Renewal

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With 25 years of ocean conservation successes fueled by an incredible network of supporters, governments, businesses, NGOs and conservation partners, Project AWARE has much to celebrate with PADI Members.

To highlight this incredible milestone and join in the celebrations, PADI is launching a special limited edition Project AWARE card – The 25 Years of Partnership for Ocean Protection limited edition card is available to PADI Pros from October 2017 and will be available to student divers throughout 2018 when it launches in January.

00606_AWARE_C_CardFINAL-300x188Two Ways to Support Project AWARE’s Next Wave of Ocean Conservation

  • Choose the new 25 Years of Partnership for Ocean Protection limited edition card as your PADI Membership card
  • Donate to Project AWARE with your PADI Member Renewal today!

Go to the PADI Pros’ Site to update your credit or debit card details and add your donation to support Project AWARE’s critical conservation work!

Your support gives the ocean a voice, help secure important policy advancements to keep shark and ray populations healthy and protect marine life from the onslaught of marine debris.

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Special Offer: Limited Edition Project AWARE 25th Anniversary Mask Strap

Project AWARE’s special 25th Anniversary limited edition mask strap is now available as a special thank you gift when donating through your PADI member renewal. The gift is available to any PADI member donating $25/€15/£15 or more.

PADI Members Improving the Lives of Veterans Through Diving

The PADI organization salutes active-duty military personnel and veterans across the globe along with the many PADI Members who offer dive programs to support them.

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Diving has proven therapeutic benefits for individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other mental and physical challenges. Recognizing the healing power of diving, PADI dedicated one of its Pillars of Change to healing and wellness, which focuses on helping others live fuller lives through scuba or freediving.

PADI Members have a long-standing history of offering dive training to armed forces personnel, past and present, to improve their quality of life, promote healing and help them reconnect with themselves and their families. Here are just a few examples of PADI Members who are making a difference:

  • Founded by PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser, the Cody Unser First Steps Foundation (CUFSF) has given thousands of individuals with disabilities the experience of scuba diving.  Since the CUFSF Adaptive SCUBA Program was founded 2001, Unser has been helping the dive industry to integrate people with disabilities into the sport.
  • Force Blue is a non-profit organization that unites US Special Forces veterans with the world of marine science and conservation. By “giving a cause its warriors, and warriors a cause,” Force Blue provides veterans with a sense of purpose while also developing an army of expertise that deploys to help restore and protect our oceans. Together with the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), Force Blue is currently working to physically stabilize Caribbean corals damaged by Hurricane Irma and repair CRF’s precious coral nurseries. On 6 November 2017, Force Blue released a full-length documentary, “Mercy, Love and Grace; the Force Blue Story,” that tells their story. Watch the trailer here.
  • For more than 40 years, A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center in Colorado, USA, has been dedicated to sharing the joy, excitement and freedom diving has to offer to people with disabilities. They offer an annual adaptive scuba group trip and, in partnership with Craig Hospital, they provide free try scuba experiences for those with physical challenges.
  • Deptherapy, a UK-based charity, helps rehabilitate injured service personnel through scuba diving, has enabled people like Armed Forces Veteran and PADI AmbassaDiver Chris Middleton to have a second chance at life. Despite suffering terrible injuries (including the loss of both his legs), Middleton has challenged his disability head on with the help of Dr. Richard Cullen and Deptherapy. “The thing about scuba diving is the weightlessness. There’s no more phantom pains. There’s no more PTSD flashbacks,” said Middleton in an interview with BBC Three. He is now inspiring other injured servicemen and women to take up diving.
  • Patriots for Disabled Divers (PFDD) is a non-profit organization founded by Jeff and Merial Currer, owners of PADI Five Star IDC Patriot Scuba in Virginia, USA. Bringing together PADI Five Star IDCs across the United States, PFDD has trained more than 600 wounded military veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, amputations and other injuries, along with their family members.
  • Syed Abd Rahman, PADI IDC Staff Instructor and founder and director of Kids Scuba in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is committed to building confidence, independence and self-esteem in the lives of children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the sport of scuba diving, scuba therapy and related activities.
  • The WAVES Project is a non-profit program based in California, USA, that provides veterans and their dive buddies with training with scuba training. The organization works with military personnel with a wide range of disabilities, including brain trauma, and double and triple amputees. Watch one story of how the WAVES Project helped Sgt. Juan Gonzales USMC (Ret.) find relief from PTSD here.
  • The Ocean Enterprises Foundation, established in 2013 by Werner and Myra Kurn, is currently working with wounded veterans teaching them how to scuba dive and aiding with their transition back to regular life at home. Its mission is to ensure that no person will be precluded from diving because of physical or financial hardship.

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For more than 30 years, Trident Veteran Adaptive Programs (TVAP) has helped thousands of disabled veterans around the United States reconnect with themselves and experience adventures that will enhance their lives. To further support all divers of all abilities through its Healing and Wellness Pillar, PADI launched its Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and the associated PADI Adaptive Support Diver Specialty subcourse at 2017 DEMA Show earlier this month. The PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course provides PADI Professionals – divemasters and higher – with practical techniques and approaches proven to be effective when teaching and assisting divers with varying abilities. It is uniquely designed to educate and empower PADI Professionals who wish to make scuba and freediver training more accessible. The PADI Adaptive Support Diver course is for divers who want to learn how they can best support dive buddies with physical and mental challenges.

“We are thankful for the service of military members around the world who sacrifice so much for all of us. Through the new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course and by sharing stories of triumph over adversity and illness that testify to diving’s healing power, PADI aims to help others to find personal transformation and healing, both mentally and physically,” says Drew Richardson, PADI Worldwide President and CEO. “The work that PADI Members do every day is about people, about transforming lives for people of all abilities. As an organization, that is our deeper purpose. That is our biggest triumph.”

PADI Inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame

The PADI® organization joined the ranks of the most honored game-changers in the diving world as a 2017 inductee into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (ISDHF). Founded in 2000 by the Ministry of Tourism of the Cayman Islands, the ISDHF recognizes individuals and groups who have contributed to the watersports industry, especially in the Cayman Islands. This year’s induction ceremony for PADI and fellow inductees was hosted at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort on 29 September 2017.

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PADI was honored as an “ISDHF Pioneer” that set the foundation for standardized scuba training programs. From PADI’s humble start in 1966, the organization has grown to be the world’s largest diver training organization of more than 133,000 dive professionals and 6,400 dive centers and resorts spread across 186 countries. PADI Members make diving accessible globally while putting a strong focus on conservation, community, underwater adventure and exploration through the Four Pillars of Change.

“On behalf of the entire PADI organization, we’re honored to have our work and continuing efforts recognized by the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. PADI’s mission is to be a force for good – to be the best in and for the world,” says President and CEO, Dr. Drew Richardson. “By empowering divers and engaging them more effectively at the local level globally, global change is inevitable. With every diver certification issued, PADI creates a growing number of ocean advocates to help defend and preserve the marine environment for generations to come.”

Be Best. Be PADITM. The Way the World Learns to Dive®.

Aligning with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is the first global alliance working to solve the worldwide problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear, known as ghost gear. Founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, the GGGI works to reduce the volume of ghost gear, remove and recycle it, and rescue entangled animals. By aligning with the GGGI, the PADI® family can help mobilize divers to look for and report harmful ghost gear that annually entangles and kills marine life including hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, turtles and birds.

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PADI joins GGGI as a member of its global solutions group to help develop new ways of mitigating the ghost gear problem. This complements the efforts of Project AWARE®, which actively works as a GGGI member to build evidence through its Dive Against Debris® program. Working together, the goal is to develop and implement projects to reduce and remove ghost gear from the ocean. This includes equipping PADI Divers with the knowledge and techniques to identify, report and, with proper training, safely remove ghost gear from waters, creating a global movement of millions of underwater eyes on the lookout for ghost gear.

More than 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is left in the world’s oceans each year, with reports showing that this debris affects more than 800 species of marine life. Many nets lost in global waters are enormous – often far bigger than football fields – trapping and killing marine life under the surface. Mostly made of plastic, ghost gear is also highly durable and can persist in the oceans for up to 600 years.

“We are happy to team up with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative,” says Drew Richardson, PADI Worldwide President and CEO. “PADI is committed to protecting the ocean planet and, with our unique underwater vantage, the dive community can play a significant role in locating marine debris. Along with Project AWARE, we look forward to working with the GGGI to empower and mobilize PADI Divers to join the fight against ghost gear.”

“We are proud to welcome PADI, with its millions of underwater eyes around the world looking out for ghost gear, as a pivotal new member for the GGGI,” says Elizabeth Hogan, U.S. Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, the GGGI’s founding participant. “Ghost gear is a true global problem that knows no borders, and PADI will surely play a crucial role in helping us to locate, remove and recycle ghost gear, which causes such immense suffering for marine animals.”

To learn more about ghost gear and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, visit www.ghostgear.org.

Be Best. Be PADITM. The Way the World Learns to Dive®.

 

Going PADI – The Best Decision

Switching training organizations is rarely an easy decision, but when a business becomes a PADI® Dive Center or Resort, the results can be truly outstanding. Last year, more dive centers and resorts joined PADI than ever before.  A case in point is Dive West, in Dallas, Texas, USA, that chose to go PADI in December 2015 and has since become a thriving PADI Retail and Resort Association member. Dive West’s management was motivated to join PADI after experiencing a decline in satisfactory customer service from another dive training agency.

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“Top-flight customer service is an essential element of the PADI Member experience,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “Life in a PADI Dive Center is often hectic, so quick and efficient service is imperative to allow dive center staff to deliver the same to their customers. That’s why PADI Regional Headquarters puts so much emphasis on exceptional customer service for members.”

Dive West finds PADI customer service outstanding. “PADI staff are always Johnny-on-the-spot,” says Brandi Farch, Dive West Store Manager. “We never have a problem accessing PADI services or reaching the right person on the phone.”

After joining, Dive West took advantage of PADI’s business consultation services, which has been an important factor in the store’s success. Like many businesses, Dive West had struggled to find the right pricing for their services and had been stuck on the same course pricing for more than eight years. However, trusting in the power of the PADI brand and PADI’s innovative marketing programs, Dive West instituted what they felt was more realistic, value-based course pricing and has thrived as a PADI Member ever since. “In less than two years with PADI, we’ve already exceeded the number of diver certifications we completed in the previous three years with our prior training agency” says Farch. “Joining PADI was the best decision we ever made for our store.”

Not surprised, Richardson says, “The PADI System of diver education brings student divers through the doors of PADI Dive Centers every day around the world. PADI’s proven marketing strategies and innovative marketing tools, such as a free annual marketing tool kit, also bring in customers.”

“We love the marketing tool kit and look forward to it each year,” says Farch. “I’m excited to decorate the store with all the new banners, flags and other point-of-purchase items, and I put it all up as soon as the kit arrives.”

“We’ve also enjoyed an increase in both walk-in and drive-by traffic since we switched to PADI. I believe this is partly attributable to our PADI-designed window wrap,” Farch explains. “Previously, we had a simple marquee sign that said ‘Dive West’ on our storefront. Many people didn’t even realize we were a dive shop. However, the window wrap dramatically changed all that. Now we’ve got ‘LEARN TO DIVE’ in great big letters, the PADI logo and other attractive graphics on our windows. People know we’re a dive shop and they drop in to check us out.”

Farch also appreciates the name recognition PADI enjoys. “People recognize PADI; we no longer have to spend all day explaining the difference between the various dive training organizations to potential customers.”

Closely tied to this recognition is the increased availability of instructors. “One of the best things about switching to PADI has been the increase in the number of qualified dive professionals who can work for us,” says Farch. “We used to have a lot of trouble getting instructors; nobody wanted to pay the money to become an instructor for our former training organization because it simply wasn’t beneficial enough for them. Now, we not only have seven or eight PADI Instructors on staff, we are also growing our own divemasters. In fact, we’re nearly finished training our first class of four PADI Divemaster candidates.”

Be Best. Be PADITM. The Way the World Learns to Dive.

 

Positivity and Keys Strong After Irma

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Written by PADI AmbassaDiver, Jack Fishman

Much like the thick limestone structure of a bountiful coral reef ecosystem in the face of a Category 4 Hurricane, the resilience of the people in South Florida is powerful.  When I moved to the Keys three years ago, I was struck by the passion and dedication those living here have for the beauty of the land and sea surrounding us. Even before Irma, this spirit offered endless opportunities to forge community bonds and joint efforts to sustain and preserve the Keys and environs.

We certainly need that commitment now. Now that the storm waters have cleared and the winds subsided, we are left with damaged infrastructure and homes, vegetation scattered across roads and property, and debris tossed everywhere by the storm. The damage varies and each section of the Florida Keys fared differently – sometimes by mere blocks. The media has portrayed vast destruction and loss and sadly that is true – just not everywhere. Key Largo, where I live and work, suffered the effects of Hurricane Irma but luckily escaped the full weight of the storm. Oceanside homes and businesses felt the effects of flooding and high winds, but structures in Key Largo and the Upper Keys generally are still standing proud, with much of the damage quickly assessed and repaired as we eagerly await the return of residents and tourists alike.

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Sadly, so many in the middle and lower Keys (and even in the upper Keys) were not so lucky. My good friend Caitlin Scott is one of them. Nonetheless, she expresses hope, which she sees every day in how the community has come together. As she says:

“Marathon, a little island just under 10 miles long, was full of tropical lush scenery, until September 10th when Hurricane Irma tore through this little slice of paradise. I headed down several days after reopening, almost a week after the storm, and was met with a sight that brought me to tears. My beautiful island I’ve called home for the better part of four years was now in shambles. Where beautiful palm trees used to stand is now replaced by brown remnants of the tropical environment. Driving around the town quickly opened my eyes to what type of power Mother Nature really has; homes in ruins, business destroyed and people left with nothing. Through all of this devastation and some of the saddest scenes I’ve ever witnessed I saw something even more important, strength.”

Stronger than any hurricane has been the force of the community and first responders coming together. Responders from every corner in the country flocked down to the Keys to help corral debris, restore power and help residents make their way back to some state of normalcy.  Some left the safety of their own homes to come here and live in temporary arrangements to aid in the repair of our infrastructure. At my own home, an electric crew from Wisconsin was able to restore our power, while I was sorting out debris in my yard. I got the chance to personally thank them and offered to take them diving; thankful that even in a small way I could show them how much we all appreciate what they have done for us. We in the Keys owe a huge debt and thank you to all the emergency personnel who have dedicated their time and incredible effort to help the Florida Keys start to work its way back from the wreckage. As Caitlin so eloquently notes:

“The Keys community is something anyone would be lucky to be a part of, and after this storm I’ve never been prouder to call this island home. Everyone quickly banded together to help each other in whatever way they could, even when they themselves had nothing. First responders came from all over the country just to offer assistance in any way they could. The phrase “Keys strong” has quickly caught on during this rebuilding process and that could not be more accurate. The Keys community is made up of some of the strongest individuals I’ve ever met, and together we will rebuild our home into the tropical paradise we are known for. Phoenixes rise from the ashes and are reborn: well, Phoenixes have nothing on the Florida Keys, from the ashes we will rise, stronger.” 

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Now that the storm has passed, with fingers crossed that we (and everyone) stay out of the paths of the alphabet of hurricanes that continue to devastate, we at Rainbow Reef, the Key Largo-based dive center where I work, have been determinedly shoring up the dive center, getting things ready to take people back to the beautiful waters we love. As I am writing this, we are fully operational as are so many other tourist destinations and shops in throughout the Upper Keys, with rebuilding slowly working its way through the harder-hit middle and lower Keys.  And all of us are paying particular attention of course to surveying the state of our reefs.

We are not scientific divers, but we are ambassadors to the sea and to reefs we have come to know better than ourselves. As anticipated, the ocean off the coast has changed after Irma. Myself, our Marine Conservation Co-Coordinator Shayna Cohen, and our teams of divers have observed the effects first hand. What we saw at first was truly heartbreaking, topography of the reefs changed significantly across the barrier system. A lot of recognizable coral structures we knew and loved had changed, or were simply not there. The sand has been displaced. Sea fans and soft corals are less plentiful; however, the substrate is there to support their return. Many high profile coral structures remain and offer ever new surfaces and ground for new life to flourish. Algae (at first stripped bare) has started to return, enough to sustain many bottom dwelling fishes. It will be important to see how that changes over time. Coral heads once again peak out from their tiny homes, raising their tentacles in the water eagerly awaiting their next meal. Some are bruised and battered, yet some life has returned to the reefs. As we move into fall, the water temperature should drop, helping to soothe the frayed nerves of the reef allowing for a faster recovery then would the heat of summer. It is important to acknowledge the destructive capabilities of a hurricane, and the reality of the changes in reef structure, coral density and fish life. Overall we were very lucky. The reefs fared remarkably well given a hit from a category 4 hurricane. The wrecks in the Upper Keys are still standing proud, a few dings and missing pieces from the surge, but otherwise unscathed. Every day more fish return, with Sharks turtles and Sting-Rays still cruising happily along the spur and groove formations of the reefs. When these amazing creatures welcome us back to their home, we should dust off our fins, make sure our buoyancy is peak perfect, and treat the reef like an old friend who is very tired, and needs some time to get back to their old happy state. Let’s all do our part and give the reefs and animals the respect they deserve as we dive back into that beautiful watery realm.

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The weeks and months after this life changing event will be critical. As the reefs heal and change, the communities will continue the healing process as well.  And we too will need to change in some ways. We need to be that much more careful to tailor our practices and even our livelihoods to protect our fragile ecosystems and prevent further decline of so many vital reef species. Shayna Cohen does a great job of describing the changes over time first hand:

“A month ago, in an article I wrote for Project Aware, I spoke about a brain coral I have seen wane in size and prominence over my time diving my favorite reef. The truth is, following the hurricane, that brain coral is no longer there, and the juvenile colonies I saw as a beacon of hope are less abundant, but that doesn’t mean hope isn’t still there. Hope now comes in the Ocean’s resilience and strength. However, hope also comes from the knowledge that humans, and especially divers, can play a role now more than ever to help heal our marine ecosystem. As visitors of the underwater world, it is our exciting duty to acknowledge and learn from the changes left by the hurricane, and to use that information to be more conscientious and contributing divers.

We have our work cut out for us. For the past year, we at Rainbow Reef and others have expanded operations to include teaching and spear-heading marine conservation efforts with a focus on safe and efficient marine debris removal efforts. We cannot predict all the changes and materials that have entered our ocean after this severe storm. With the help of PADIProject AWARE FoundationThe LonelyWhale4OceanStream2Sea The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and many passionate individuals who make up our island family, we will be working hard to remove debris from locations throughout the Florida Keys. 4Ocean works very closely with our operation to ensure safe removals of marine debris, increased access for resources, and expanding perceptions across South Florida. We are endlessly thankful for their support.

Our well-trained and professional staff has already dived in many canals and lagoons to help remove odds and ends (big and small) and to restore accessibility to our waterways. This process will be ongoing, requiring time and dedication to ensure the debris does no further harm to our ecosystems. We will be coordinating with the community, government, professional and conservation organizations to use our skills to search for, aid in the logging of, and safely remove as much debris as humanly possible.

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We encourage you to come down and see it all for yourselves. See what mother nature is capable of. Get involved. Participate in the effort to haul, remove, sort and catalogue debris. Take the PADI Dive Against Debris Speciality with us and leave your experience with real meaning and training. On the reefs one must hone your skills. Make your dives count. The PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course is an excellent start to ensuring the continued health of our beautiful reef structures as divers explore the depths. Learn about Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for Being a Good Diver which lay the groundwork to allow all of us to ease back into safe and productive diving practices that leave the reefs in better shape than we found them. These practices help us become more aware as we accept responsibility for our reefs and become part of the healing process, instead of simple observers.

Remember “Keys Strong,” our rallying cry for healing and rebuilding the Florida Keys.  We are stronger together, and even stronger when those outside the Keys join us. We rely on tourism. We love to share our beautiful home with others and to work together to preserve what we have here. Thanks to the incredible work by First Responders and infrastructure teams from all over the world, we are nearly there.

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The best way YOU can help is to come visit us in the Florida Keys.

Dive shops are carrying divers to the reefs and wrecks, restaurants are open, motels are open, gas stations are open, bars are open, roads are clear. With the healing of our reefs around us, and restoration of the lives of residents and businesses here in the Florida Keys, we eagerly await your return.

Help Divers Protect Their Skin Without Harming Coral Reefs

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According to a recent study, even a tiny amount of toxic sunscreen can kill coral. Unfortunately, popular sunscreens made by Banana Boat, Coppertone, Neutrogena and others contain oxybenzone, a chemical proven to be hazardous to reefs. Toxic sunscreen has become such a problem, Hawai’i may pass a law banning sunscreen made with oxybenzone.

Unfortunately, choosing a product labeled biodegradable or coral reef safe isn’t enough. Chemicals toxic to coral such as butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidine, camphor and the infamous oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3 or BP-3) have been found in products labeled coral reef safe. Before you restock your sunscreen, take a few seconds to ensure it doesn’t contain the ingredients above, or choose a product from our vetted list below.

The sun protection products below received high marks from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and consumers on Amazon.com. These are the least-hazardous sunscreen products on the market (according to EWG’s 2017 research) that also received a minimum 3.5 star score from consumers on Amazon.com. You can view the specific products and links to consumer reviews on our earlier blog post: The Best Natural Sunscreen for Scuba Divers and Snorkelers.

Reef-friendly sunscreen manufacturers – view wholesale info online

Badger Balm

Stream2Sea

WaxHead

Reef-friendly sunscreen manufacturers – contact for wholesale info

Blue Lizard

Beyond Coastal

BurnOut – phone 800-798-7970 or email shona@burnoutsun.com

All Terrain (natural sunscreen and natural bug repellent) call 978-886-3218 or email David Kuykendall dkuykendall@allterrainco.com

Note: no sunscreen has been proven to be 100% reef-safe, but sunscreens made with titanium oxide or zinc oxide do not appear to be harmful to corals (source: NOAA). Chemical processes are used to create any sunscreen, even mineral-based ones.

The best solution for divers and snorkelers is to cover up rather than slather on. A rashguard with UV protection is a better environmental choice than any sunscreen. Choose a long-sleeve version for maximum coverage.

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By promoting reef-friendly alternatives to toxic sunscreens, dive operators can reduce their impact on our ocean planet and support the Ocean Health Pillar (one of PADI’s Four Pillars of Change). That said, threats such as coastal pollution, overfishing, and sedimentation are a greater threat to coral reefs than sunscreen. PADI encourages all Members to support the conservation efforts of Project AWARE through donations and education.