The Project AWARE Dive Against Debris initiative not only has obvious positive effects for marine life and our oceans, but is also helping drive policy changes for a cleaner future.
Our polluted planet
Many societies, strongly influenced by consumerism, have a problem with overconsumption. Many of us rely on far too many disposable items. The result is a buildup of so much trash that we have nowhere to put it. Although helpful, recycling programs are not enough and are still not widely available around the world. Trash from the land and rivers usually end ups in the ocean, with much written about the floating islands of trash we now find out at sea. It’s difficult to pinpoint where all that debris originates, but researchers think that much or most of it comes from densely populated coastlines.
There is also evidence that inland waterways serve as conduits for plastic to travel thousands of miles to the oceans. Debris in the ocean not only floats at the surface but also floats in the water column and covers the sea floor. Marine species become tangled in debris, from fishing nets to six-pack rings. Once caught, they face grave injury or death. Even if they don’t get entangled, many animals mistake plastic debris for food and eat it. This fills their stomachs with junk they can’t digest. Debris can also damage important habitats, like coral reefs, by breaking or smothering them. As a diver, you’ve likely seen firsthand the negative effect of trash in the oceans. Each of us, in our small way, can help make a difference.
Project Aware Dive Against Debris specialty course
The Project Aware Foundation has created a Dive Against Debris specialty course to help rid the oceans of trash. To enroll in the course, you must be at least 12 years old and a certified PADI (Junior) Open Water Diver or equivalent with another agency. The class takes one day and includes a theory session and one Open Water dive. The course aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to complete Dive Against Debris surveys independently, including removing marine debris underwater and reporting the data online.
The surveys and data that divers submit are essential to help drive change and inform policy. Completing regular Dive Against Debris surveys at the same location over time is the best way to build a comprehensive database and identify hotspot areas where governments should prioritize waste management. The course also teaches divers what trash they should remove and what trash they should leave, as removing it may cause greater damage.
Watch this video of one of my recent Dives Against Debris:
Your data will make a difference
Reporting on exactly what items you collect is vital to determine what needs to be done. The data you collect helps shape waste-management policy by helping convince individuals, governments and businesses to act on the problem of marine debris. Divers are collecting data from all over the world. Based on their findings, companies and individuals are already making changes. Plastic bags, for example, face bans in at least a few countries. Plastic straws and balloons have also come under scrutiny. Project AWARE is working with corporations, economists, waste experts, and other non-governmental organizations to identify ways for communities to profitably gather, separate, sell and store plastic waste and prevent it from entering the ocean. Other positive effects include:
- Changes in infrastructure to physically block trash before it reaches the ocean
- Changes in regulations to better manage the things we make and how we make them, from manufacturing to use, recycling and disposal. Examples include clothing and shoes made from recycled ocean plastic.
- Changes in attitudes and behaviors so we can rethink, reduce, reuse, and recycle our way out of this mess
Even if you don’t live near the coast you can dive against debris in rivers, mangroves, lakes and quarries. All the data we gather is helping to make a cleaner planet and help save marine life from unnecessary suffering and death.
Hayley-Jo Carr offers the Dive Against Debris specialty for both divers and instructors who wish to learn how to teach to their students at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas. Email for more details.