PADI and Project AWARE Celebrate 25 Years of Ocean Action

Project AWARE® turns 25 this year. It’s an incredible milestone made possible by the global dive community’s continued support for ocean protection and a partnership powered by a shared vision for a healthy ocean. As PADI® deepens its commitment to ocean health and marine animal protection through the Four Pillars of Change, Project AWARE’s 25th Anniversary is testament to what can be accomplished when people join forces and engage in meaningful conservation action.

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It was in the late 1980s when Project A.W.A.R.E. (Aquatic World Awareness Responsibility and Education) was born to harness each diver’s potential to advocate for and protect underwater environments. What began as a “project” transformed rapidly into a separate nonprofit organization – the Project AWARE Foundation, which has grown into a full-fledged movement of divers, marine activists and aquatic enthusiasts uniting to take action for ocean protection. In the early days, Project AWARE focused on working to advance environmental awareness through diver education. As the movement grew, Project AWARE shifted its focus to empowering direct community action and campaigning for ocean issues divers care about most.

“Over the past quarter of a century, Project AWARE has stayed at the forefront of emerging ocean issues, amplified divers’ voices on the international stage and brought together a worldwide community tackling some of the most pressing ocean challenges,” says Dr. Drew Richardson, PADI President and CEO and Chairman of the Project AWARE Foundation Board. “From its grassroots inception, Project AWARE has grown into a movement with strong initiatives that have a positive impact on the future of our ocean planet.”

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. You’ve helped secure historic protections for vulnerable shark and ray species. You’ve contributed to developing the world’s first and only marine debris database with more than 800,000 pieces of debris removed and reported from underwater environments. Using Project AWARE’s unique tools and resources, you’ve taught and continue to teach ocean protection to scuba divers, children, families and friends in local communities around the world, inspiring stewards for the ocean.

The past 25 years have created a strong foundation for Project AWARE to build its next wave of ocean protection. Now more than ever, Project AWARE is positioned to lead the charge by empowering the global dive community to be agents of positive change for the ocean, and engage ocean enthusiasts in meaningful conservation actions that the ocean desperately needs. Join the movement and protect our ocean planet – one dive at a timeSM.

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.

Scuba Pro Donated Gear(c)KipEvansMB_MG_9850Photo: Kip Evans | Mission Blue

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.

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Mobula Rays Jumping at Sunset(c)KipEvansMBAG4V9467Photo: Kip Evans | Mission Blue

Embracing Initiatives to Support Our Oceans 

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PADI® has a longstanding history of conservation and is building on that by joining forces to further support two of our Four Pillars of Change: Ocean Health and Marine Animal Protection. While continuing to support Project AWARE® in its efforts to reduce marine debris and protect endangered sharks and rays, there are new initiatives with the United Nations (UN) Development Programme and Mission Blue™.

Healthy Ocean, Healthy Planet

Alignment with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, allows the PADI family to increase efforts to conserve and sustainably use marine resources. By joining the #SaveOurOcean dialog initiated by the UN Development Programme, you and your divers can engage in conversations to increase awareness about the importance of ocean health and its effect on the bigger sustainability agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

Mission Blue™. – a Dr. Sylvia Earle alliance – focuses on growing the number of protected marine areas. Sharing stories of Hope Spots – a term for special places critical to ocean health, dubbed by Dr. Earle and Mission Blue – help identify areas that are precursors for marine protected areas. Nominating Hope Spots provides an opportunity for the PADI family and the dive industry to help reach the goal set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress to protect 30 percent of our world’s oceans by 2030.

One Dive at a Time

Project AWARE continues its vital work to protect our ocean planet. From collective action in local communities to large-scale change at the policy level, Project AWARE partners with you and your divers to reduce the amount of marine debris entering our ocean and protecting the world’s most threatened species of sharks and rays. Diver support is imperative for the oceans’ future and you can encourage everyone to dive into action and show their support through direct donations to Project AWARE, as well as in grassroots efforts including Dive Against Debris® and Adopt a Dive Site. Check out Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for Divers Action Kit for tools you can use to inspire action.

Lend your support for global efforts to improve the future of the oceans under the structure of our Four Pillars of Change. By taking action to reduce marine debris, establish more marine protected areas and protect marine animals, together we can increase biodiversity and work toward sustainable management of the oceans and their resources. PADI Pros and divers drive change every day and have stories to share to inspire others to do the same. If you have a story you want to share, email fourpillarsofchange@padi.com.

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

 

Elevating Purpose: PADI’s Four Pillars of Change

Over the past 50 years, PADI® has become a global network of dive centers, resorts and professional members who do a lot more than teach diving, sell dive equipment and run dive trips. PADI Members transform lives every day. Together, we have certified millions of divers, ambassadors and protectors of our water planet.

And our water planet needs every diver, ambassador and protector it can get. Eight million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year. There’s so much plastic that we use terms such as “plastic soup” to describe the vast accumulations. Elevated temperatures and ocean acidification have effectively destroyed 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs. Overfishing is rampant. Some shark species are on the brink of extinction, their numbers reduced by as much as 80 percent – the loss of these apex predators would throw entire ecosystems out of balance.

Collectively, PADI must commit to acting as a force for good in the world. By connecting divers with the PADI family and empowering them to take action on issues relevant to our industry, we can become an even more powerful catalyst for change. If we can engage divers around the world more effectively locally, global change is inevitable.

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This is why PADI’s Four Pillars of Change launched in 2016. These four initiatives accentuate our deeper purpose:

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OCEAN HEALTH: Support global efforts for a healthy ocean. Partner with Project AWARE to remove marine debris and forge partnerships to establish Marine Protected Areas around the world.

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MARINE ANIMAL PROTECTION: Protect marine life biodiversity. Support Project AWARE® and other organizations that work to enact legislation, educate the public and fight shark finning and overfishing.

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PEOPLE AND COMMUNITY: Do more to help build dive infrastructure and support training local people to foster sustainability. Educate and support local communities to cultivate the protection mindset necessary for ocean health and marine animal protection.

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HEALTH AND WELLNESS: As we help heal the world externally, we heal internally as well. In diving, many people have found hope for their futures. Stories of triumph over adversity, illness and hardships testify to diving’s healing power. Share the incredible stories about personal transformation so others may benefit.

These powerful messages resonate with people all over the world. People want to be involved with entities that make a tangible difference, but they have to know about them first, so it’s vital to get the message out. Take a look at your current communication plan and incorporate these initiatives in ways that fit with your particular local needs and opportunities. You’re likely already doing this, but making it a priority to let people know about this shared commitment is a powerful way to grow the base of divers, ambassadors and protectors our water plant depends on.

There’s no better day to highlight your commitment to the Four Pillars of Change than 22 April 2017, Earth Day. Since 1970, Earth Day has focused on environmental issues and given voice to an emerging global consciousness. Now, 47 years later, Earth Day continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion and motivate people to action. It’s a perfect opportunity to let your local community know about your efforts on behalf of the environment, and it’s just the type of news that’s likely to get picked up by local media.

The Case of the Goliath Grouper

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The fishing of goliath groupers is a really big issue. Because goliath groupers are really big.

In fact, as fishes go, Atlantic goliath groupers (Epinephelus itajara) are whoppers: They grow to massive proportions and can weigh up to 455 kilograms/800 pounds. Because of this, they have unquestionably become one of the most desirable “trophy” fish on the planet.

They are also delicious. And vulnerable, for two main reasons: First, goliaths live in shallow tropical waters, at depths from 5-50 metres/16-165 feet, from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, throughout the Caribbean and along much of the South American coast, sometimes venturing as far north as Maine and across the Atlantic to Africa. Second, they spawn in large aggregations – large numbers of groupers turn up in the same location at the same time to get on with the business of creating the next generation.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the goliath grouper population (along with many fish populations) plummeted due to pressure from commercial and recreational fishermen, including divers and spearfishermen. As a result, taking – harvesting or killing – goliath groupers was prohibited throughout the United States in 1990; their population is recovering in certain areas, and now the pressure from some corners is on to reopen the fishery. Many others oppose this.

Photo by Bill Goodwin, Florida Keys National Marine SanctuaryPADI submitted an official position statement opposing proposals to reopen the goliath grouper fishery in Florida, USA, and backed this up by supporting research on the financial impact of goliath grouper dive tourism. As you can imagine, spawning aggregations are a big draw for divers from not only the immediate locale but from around the world, and they are worth protecting. The real issue is how to achieve this. The answer may well lie in divers’ relatively deep pockets. Money talks (and helps sway decision makers) and the research findings are clear: While recreational fisherman are willing to spend $34-$79 US to harvest a goliath grouper, in-state divers are willing to spend $103-$202 US for goliath grouper encounters; out-of-state divers are willing to pay around $336 US.

That’s pretty significant. It’s great for Florida, which benefits economically. It’s great for divers, who get to dive with dozens of goliath grouper. It’s great for most fishermen, who just have to carefully release any goliath grouper caught (they just can’t “harvest or possess” them). And it’s really good for goliath groupers.

Victory for Sharks & Rays at CITES CoP

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After 13 Species Listed in Plenary, NGOs look to implementation, remaining threats

Conservationists are delighted that CITES* Parties have officially listed devil rays, thresher sharks, and the silky shark under CITES Appendix II. The listing proposals were supported by more than the two-thirds majority required for adoption in Committee on Monday, and finalized today in Plenary.

“This is a big win for all these species of sharks and rays as governments around the world will now have to act to ensure that trade is from sustainable and legal fisheries,” said Andy Cornish of the WWF.

Nine devil rays, the three thresher sharks, and the silky shark were proposed by countries all over the globe for listing under CITES Appendix II, which obligates Parties to put in place international trade restrictions to ensure exports are sustainable and legal.

“We are elated by the resounding support for safeguarding the devil rays, some of the oceans’ most vulnerable animals,” said Sonja Fordham of Shark Advocates International.  Devil rays have just one pup every two or three years, leaving them exceptionally susceptible to overfishing.

Ali Hood of the Shark Trust noted, “While we’re pleased by this important decision to regulate trade in silky sharks, we stress that complementary fishing limits and measures to reduce incidental catch are key to the effective conservation of this species.”

“We are grateful that governments recognize the value of healthy thresher shark populations for both fisheries and tourism,” said Ania Budziak of Project AWARE.

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CITES Parties now have six months to implement the new international trade obligations for devil rays, and one year to do the same for silky and thresher sharks.

“We urge governments to put in place these vital international trade controls, as a matter of priority,” added Amie Brautigam of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Earlier in the meeting, Parties agreed steps aimed at improving the traceability of shark and ray products, which is fundamental to CITES implementation. Countries’ interventions reflected a growing recognition of the vital role CITES can play in shark and ray conservation by enhancing data, improving management, and ensuring sustainable international trade.

Project AWARE, Shark Advocates International, Shark Trust, TRAFFIC, Wildlife Conservation Society, and WWF are working in partnership to promote the ray and shark listing proposals, with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Media contact: Brittney Francis: +44 07508 979958 (UK) brittney@communicationsinc.co.uk

For species factsheets see: http://www.projectaware.org/publication/cites-cop17-fact-sheets

ReMember: Support Ocean Protection with your PADI Member Renewal

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The diving community, especially PADI® Professional Members play a critical role in leading ocean protection.

There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will?” – John Cronin, PADI Co-Founder

Your renewed commitment to ocean protection with your PADI Member Renewal continues to give 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.

Project AWARE®, PADI’s environmental partner, is dedicated to providing PADI Pros like you with the tools and resources to take action, advancing the health of the ocean for future generations. Your donation supports hands-on citizen science, education and local marine conservation actions tailored for the dive community across the globe.

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 today!

*Donations of $25 USD or more received during PADI Member Renewals will receive a new limited edition Project AWARE silky shark mask strap pad as a special thank you for your renewed support.