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®.

 

Rebreather Training Council Publishes First Standard

The Rebreather Training Council (RTC) is made up of training agencies that provide courses for divers using rebreathers. The RTC’s mission is to promote the safe use of rebreathers by creating industry training standards and operational protocols. Having agreed to minimum standards makes it easier to compare certifications from different agencies. PADI is a founding RTC member and active participant in council meetings.

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In August 2017, the RTC published the first training standard – RTC Rebreather Diver Level 1. This standard describes the minimum required training for diver to dive with a rebreather to a maximum depth of 30 metres/100 feet with no planned stage decompression stops and without supervision by an instructor or divemaster. The PADI Advanced Rebreather Diver course meets or exceeds all the requirements of RTC Rebreather Diver Level 1 standards.

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.

Hurricane Relief Efforts

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After three powerful storms hit Texas, Florida, the US East Coast, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands, it has been a difficult time for the millions of people affected by evacuations, flooding, electrical outages and loss of loved ones. We empathize with our friends, family and colleagues after the Category 4 and 5 hurricanes hit, bringing 298-kph/185-mph winds, catastrophic flooding and intense tropical rain, leaving more than 10 million people without power for days.

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As part of the PADI family, please seize the opportunity to help the dive community in  affected locations. The Red Cross, Caribbean Tourism Organization, United For Puerto Rico and Sandals Foundation are accepting donations to continue providing aid and relief to these specific destinations to help make a difference.

We’ll provide updates on locations that are ready to welcome tourists again once the hurricane passes. Check out this update from the Florida Keys.

PADI AmbassaDiver Cody Unser Gives Divers with Disabilities a New Perspective

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Cody Unser First Step Foundation’s (CUFSF) quality of life motto is “Changing Lives One Dive at a Time.” Embodying the Health and Wellness Pillar of PADI’s Four Pillars of Change initiative, a short film showcasing the inspirational story of CUFSF founder and PADI AmbassaDiverTM Cody Unser was recently released. Unser and her CUFSF dive team provide participants with spinal cord-related paralysis with scuba instruction and PADI® Open Water certification to improve quality of life.

“Scuba is that catalyst that can transform people’s perceptions about what’s possible, and that people with disabilities want to not only live life, but thrive in it!” Unser says.

In June, CUFSF took their message to the No Barriers Summit in north Lake Tahoe, California, USA, where Unser’s My PADI video was filmed to share her story of transcending barriers through diving.

On 12-13 August, Unser and her volunteer dive team conducted a PADI Open Water Diver course for the physical and occupational therapists from the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injury in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, along with an introductory scuba event for the institute’s patients. Their goal: to integrate more medical professionals into the world of diving, while showing participants with spinal cord injuries that anything is possible.

“My hope is that the work that we do at the Cody Unser First Step Foundation with our Adaptive Scuba Program will help motivate and inspire the world to become more accepting and adapting for people with disabilities,” Unser says.

Adding support for Unser’s work, and other organizations like CUFSF, the new PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty course will launch in November. This new program teaches PADI Pros to help people with varying abilities meet PADI course performance requirements. In addition, the program includes a PADI Adaptive Support Diver course for divers interested in learning how to support dive buddies using adaptive techniques. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive: Anyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to participate. This new program aims increase awareness of adaptive techniques that focus on what scuba participants can do rather than on what they can’t.

Since becoming paralyzed at the age of 12 due to transverse myelitis, Unser has worked to show others how powerful adaptive sports can be for the health and quality of life of people with paralyzing injuries and conditions. By convincing her doctors about the beneficial neurological and psychological effects of scuba diving on paralysis, Unser has demonstrated to the medical world that diving can promote healing.

“Having lost sensation and function in my lower body, diving made me feel whole again. It’s that feeling of freedom and independence that made me want to share it with others who, like me, doubted and feared life with a paralyzed body on land,” Unser says. “Now that doubt and fear doesn’t exist!”

Be Best. Be PADISM – The Way the World Learns to Dive®

Drew Richardson Engages Ocean Community at Blue Vision Summit 

PADI President and CEO Drew Richardson took part in the Blue Vision Summit in Washington, DC, USA, last month, speaking about the enhanced role that coastal communities can play in ocean conservation and stewardship. The summit, which brings together ocean conservation leaders, was focused on strengthening a sustainable “blue economy” and addressing challenges of a changing ocean and climate.

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“Unquestionably, there are serious and formidable issues threatening the world oceans. That said, I’m a firm believer in engagement, problem identification and mitigation,” Richardson said to the group of 500 scientists, explorers and leaders in attendance. “My life philosophy is to remain optimistic and focused on a ‘future hope.’ In my mind, there is no other option.”

The PADI organization became involved in the Blue Vision Summit to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations toward improving ocean conservation efforts through various approaches, including education and marine recreation. The summit also provides a platform to influence policy and implement ocean health solutions by connecting with change makers and elected officials.

“It was an honor to attend the Blue Vision Summit and engage with so many passionate and committed professionals,” said Richardson. “At PADI, we are recruiting and engaging millions of new divers, training them well to be confident and comfortable, encouraging and enabling them to seek diving adventures and explore the planet’s underwater realm. Divers receive a clear message to pay it forward as good ocean stewards who protect marine life. We look forward to collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to achieve these ends.”

Speaking of PADI’s deepened commitment to ocean health and conservation through the Four Pillars of Change program, Richardson said, “We train nearly one million new divers each year who can engage in strategic alliances, have a powerful voice and get involved in real solutions to drive change. PADI Divers are actively becoming as a force for good and driving toward a healthier ocean on local, national and international levels. The PADI organization is committed to being a global, passionate force that creates a preferred future with healthier oceans.”

Note: Read more from Richardson about ocean conservation and advocacy in this recent Forbes article.    

Be Best. Be PADI – The Way The World Learns To Dive®

 

PADI Joins Forces with Mission Blue to Help Protect the World’s Ocean

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PADI® and Mission Blue™ have forged a formal partnership to help increase the level of protection of our world’s ocean. Led by legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mission Blue inspires action to explore and protect the ocean. At the heart of this effort is a global campaign to build public support for the protection of Hope Spots — special places that are vital to the health of the ocean.

Hope Spots are about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean. By activating its global network of divers and dive professionals, the PADI family will further bring attention to marine areas in a worldwide network targeted for enhanced protection.

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“Mission Blue is thrilled to partner with PADI to bring awareness to divers around the world about the value of Hope Spots,” says Laura Cassiani, Executive Director of Mission Blue. “Divers are an important voice in the global coalition for greater marine conservation because they know first-hand the beauty and fragility of marine ecosystems. We believe deeply that this exciting new collaboration between PADI and Mission Blue will ignite broad support for further ocean conservation around the world. Onward and downward!”

In November 2016, PADI announced our Four Pillars of Change social and environmental responsibility program. Devised to elevate the PADI mission to be best in and for the world, the Four Pillars will help connect the PADI community to the ocean causes they care about. Program efforts will be focused on building awareness of important issues affecting ocean health, strengthening dive communities and dive infrastructure, and forming global alliances that will engage and mobilize PADI Dive Centers, Resorts, dive professionals, and divers to be a global force for good.

“Connecting PADI Divers and Members with the Hope Spots program provides them with actionable opportunities to have a lasting impact on the future of our blue planet,” says Drew Richardson, President and CEO of PADI Worldwide. “Through our partnership, PADI and Mission Blue hope to educate divers and ignite support for Hope Spots with the long-term goal of formally protecting more areas of our world’s ocean.”

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PADI will showcase a different Hope Spot each month, such as the Coral Triangle and the Saanich Inlet, to give divers a deeper insight into these vital ecosystems and the need to safeguard them as protected areas. In the coming months, PADI Divers will learn more about some of the best Hope Spots for diving and have an opportunity to nominate new Hope Spots.

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If governments, civilian organizations and communities work together to formally protect Hope Spots, these special marine environments can form the seeds of tomorrow’s healthy ocean. Currently, only 5% of the world’s oceans are protected. By joining forces, the goal set forth by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress to protect 30 percent of our world’s oceans by 2030 is reachable.

#padi4change

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