By Sabrina Hindley
Images by Havas Formula
The critical roles divers play in ocean conservancy.
At DEMA 2017, PADI Worldwide President and CEO Dr Drew Richardson, and legendary oceanographer Dr Sylvie Earle joined forces for a powerful discussion about the role that divers play in ocean conservation. Sabrina Hindley was one of the select few who had the chance to interview them afterwards.
Divers serve as protectors of our marine habitats as they bear witness to the changes in the ocean. Recognising the notable influence that the dive community has on the ocean conservation movement, PADI and Mission Blue formed a partnership in 2017 in an effort to empower divers to be a force for good. Dr Richardson and Dr Earle’s presentation at DEMA 2017 was one of collaboration and perseverance, proving this duo to be a powerhouse partnership in their mission to save our oceans or, at the very least, shed some light on the changes. Their message to divers was this: Be observant and broadcast your observations during and after dives, stay informed, get engaged, initiate conversations and educate others about the issues.
BE A FORCE FOR GOOD
“We don’t get to live in an ideal world, we live in this one,” says Dr Drew Richardson. “Training one million new divers each year across the planet, PADI has the reach and influence to mobilise divers to be citizen activists. The diving community can be a powerful change agent that can engage in strategic alliances… and get involved in real solutions to mitigate the problems that threaten our ocean planet.”
Dr Drew Richardson has been acknowledged as the 2016 Diver of the Year by Beneath the Sea as having made significant and lasting contributions to the past, present and future of diving. With over 5 000 dives in various environments, this is no surprise. Drew is not only a thought leader, but is, first and foremost, a conservationist. With his inspiring passion and grounded knowledge, he is driving positive change in ocean conservation efforts and inspiring others to start constructive conversations on the matter.
SABRINA’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
FROM THE MOMENT HE ENGAGES ON THE TOPIC, HIS PASSION IS REVEALED.
Sabrina | What do you hope to achieve through this collaboration with Mission Blue and how can aspiring PADI Pros take action?
Drew | Close to my heart is the critical need for marine protection and preservation. My hope is to engage millions of new divers to seek diving adventures and explore the planet’s underwater realm, paying it forward as good stewards of ocean and marine life. It is imperative that PADI Pros talk about our ocean’s issues. Through talking, we create awareness. Through awareness, we will start to bring positive change. I take pride in being a part of change and believe that even the smallest act can have a profound effect. There is no group better positioned to defend our ocean than divers. We free marine animals from nets and lines. We petition and influence government and corporations to protect and preserve the seas. We clean up debris, assist with research and choose only sustainable seafood. We help and we defend, because we can and because we care.
Sabrina | What has been your greatest career success – your “A-HA” moment?
Drew | It’s still coming. [Laughs in jest]. I would have to say stimulating daily conversations and acting as a steward for conservation efforts are my greatest successes to date. Even more than before, PADI’s training curricula advocates joining together to protect our ocean and push back against the destructive practices that threaten it. I am proud to be at the helm, lobbying for a change in how we as divers think. We are starting to think deeply about making a difference in our conservation efforts. We are also starting to demonstrate a true sense of collaboration when talking about the ocean’s issues.
“Change comes when people care, and there are no better messengers to communicate the beauty and fragility of the ocean than divers who have a direct, emotional connection to the ocean.”
Widely referred to as “Her Deepness,” and recognised as a living legend, Dr Sylvia Earle has been studying the ocean since the 1950s. Her life and work is now the subject of a new Netflix documentary, “Mission Blue,” which aims to establish marine-protected areas (Hope Spots) around the globe. Despite her advancing in years, Earle is still a committed and dedicated diver as ever before.
SABRINA’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS
HER REPUTATION PRECEDES HER – ONE CAN FEEL HER OMNIPOTENT PRESENCE IN THE ROOM. WHEN SHE SHARES HER MESSAGE, SILENCE ABOUNDS AND SHE HOLDS THE CROWD IN ABSOLUTE ATTENTION, AS THEY DO NOT WANT TO MISS ONE WORD.
Sabrina | What is your inspiration?
Sylvia | I am proud to be a part of change, and I think of conservation as one of the pillars for the survival of our species and the world as a whole.
Sabrina | What is your greatest success and disappointment?
Sylvia | My greatest success is the hope that I have been a voice for the ocean, as a scientist and as a witness. I hope that I have inspired people to care for this wilderness. No ocean, no life. No blue, no green. No ocean, no us. My biggest disappointments are the difficulties I have encountered in trying to convince people how and why the ocean matters. We are so slow to embrace technologies that can be used to help care for the ocean. This seems to come down to a reluctance to explore the deep. Only three people have been to the deepest part of the ocean. Two of them, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, reached a depth of roughly 10 911m in the Challenger Deep (the deepest part of the southern Mariana Trench) in 1960. They accomplished this with the deep-sea submersible named Trieste. James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, was the third when he reached the bottom of Challenger Deep in 2012, in the submersible Deepsea Challenger.
Sabrina | What drastic ocean changes have you witnessed?
Sylvia | I have seen great changes over the years. One of them is the effect of deep sea fishing and how it is destroying the ocean. We as humans know how to kill, but we need to do a better job of saving.
Sabrina | What can people do to make a difference or get involved?
Sylvia | I want people to care and know more about the ocean. Support national parks. Nominate places that you love and care about, whether on land or in the ocean, for protection as a Hope Spot by going to Mission Blue. Become as educated as you personally can and use your talents. Not everyone can do everything, but everyone can do something to continue making a difference.
Mission Blue embarks on oceanic expeditions that shed light on Hope Spots. With the concerted efforts and passion of people and organisations around the world, there is hope that these protected areas can grow large enough to restore the ocean, which Earle refers to as “the blue heart of the planet”. Owing to her tenacity and sheer force of will, Dr Sylvia Earle looks set to continue making a big difference in the ocean. Read more about South Africa’s Hope Spots [here]
Drawing from Dr Richardson and Dr Earle, I strongly urge all divers alike to be ocean ambassadors and start proactive conversations about marine conservation. We as divers are in the front line between the ocean and its protection. Make your legacy an impactful one.