What is Project AWARE and what does it mean to me?

Project AWAREis a non-profit, worldwide, organisation dedicated to “Conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action.” The foundation was established in 1995 by PADI in response to what many divers saw as the increasing potentially negative impact of both recreational and commercial activities on coral reefs and marine life in general.

Rubbish collected on Newhaven beach

Rubbish collected on Newhaven beach

For many divers the most commonly seen aspect of Project AWARE is their work in promoting beach and shore clean-ups, and many dive clubs, as well as independent divers will include such events in their annual dive programmes. In my own club the beach clean up is now a regular event held in conjunction with a local shore dive and followed by a barbecue. I am always amazed at the number of black bin bags we collect, and the type and quantity  of rubbish we collect – plastic, planks of wood, paper and other rubbish from around the world  that we collect over a couple of hundred metres of the beach. It is also fascinating to read the labels on some of the items and try to identify their origin. Whilst there is a strong sense of satisfaction having completed a clean up it is also disappointing to realise that the next high tide will bring a new crop of flotsam and jetsam and that perhaps a more concerted and organised approach is required if the recently discovered “islands of plastic” in the Pacific and other areas of the ocean are not to be replicated around the world.

The current “Dive Against Debris” campaign provides a series of tools and information packs giving details of how to get more involved and to log the types of debris found on the beach so that they can better understand how this pollution spreads.

http://www.projectaware.org/category/resource-zone/marine-debris

As divers we dive for any number of reasons but many of us, and certainly in my case, we dive in order to see

AWARE Beach Clean Up by Sussex Scuba

AWARE Beach Clean Up by Sussex Scuba

the marine life, whether diving around the UK, the Red Sea, the Far East or even more exotic locations.  Of all the fish we hope to see sharks are pretty high on most divers’ lists and yet it is becoming ever more difficult to see them, even in areas where their appearance was more or less “guaranteed” just a few years ago.  A combination of a reputation for blood thirsty violence, as often portrayed by the media, and the increasing and barbaric practice of fining, is resulting in an almost unbelievable decline in shark numbers in many species around the world. Much of this is due simply to the trade in shark fin soup and other Eastern cooking & medicine.  If you can get hold of it I strongly recommend watching the film “Sharkwater” which looks at the effect finning is having on the shark population.

Governments around the world are slowly waking up to the potential tragic consequences of this trade and are signing treaties banning the practices and trade in shark fins. Project AWARE has been instrumental in bringing about such changes together with other environmental and animal protection groups.

If you where lucky enough to see a shark on your last dive trip I hope that it won’t be the last time you do, and such action is being taken in time.

Although you may feel that you can do little to get involved in this process other than sign online petitions, perhaps there is. Any trade depends on supply and demand and if, in this case the demand for shark fin in cooking can be reduced, then its supply will become less profitable. Does your local Chinese restaurant or take away serve shark fin soup? If so why not find a way of asking the owner if they would consider stopping this supply. If we all tried this approach we may be successful, in some small way, in helping to preserve and sustain these incredible and irreplaceable animals.

Clown Fish

Clown Fish

As well as sponsoring and supporting Project AWARE, PADI, in accordance with its charter, tries to help educate divers and non-divers, by offering a number of Project AWARE specialities and certifications. Sadly however, even though most other diver training companies are also now involved, not every diver is interested.

Regardless of which diving agency you tend to prefer, as a diver the aims of Project AWARE in sustaining the very environment in which we carry out our hobby should be dear to our hearts and therefore supporting its aims either directly or indirectly should be high on your agenda.

No matter how small – every little makes a difference and together we can help to make it worthwhile getting wet!

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